‘I know you…’
A skinny old man with a small protruding belly and white hair is standing beside me.
I am in the corner table at a franchise coffee shop in a little village about 20-minutes south of my current home-base; I lived here for four years prior to moving to Tasmania, but all of my friends from the region have since moved on too.
I come here when I’m feeling writing-inspired and want to go unnoticed…
The man looks vaguely familiar.
‘You used to work at the Northern Leader,’ he says.
I did report general news for a small and now defunct community newspaper in the Illawarra back in about 2005. But who is this guy?
‘I was the sports reporter.’
In an instant I remember the gentleman who came to work wearing footy shorts. He’s wearing them now.
‘Of course! How have you been?’
Not so great, actually, he replies, and proceeds to list each polyp he has had removed, the colonoscopy, the heart attack, the various meds…
Probably good he’s not on Facebook or Instagram…
He grabs my hand to look for a ring. 'You married?’
The awkward chitchat continues for a few minutes; then he returns to his coffee and newspaper and I go back to my laptop.
I head to this little village often, and I see him regularly still. Occasionally he shares more medical woes, but usually a nod and a smile is our only exchange.
Since returning to the region I’ve encountered several faces from my past...
Several months later, at another cafe, two women are sitting across from me at a massive communal table. One is talking loudly on her phone; the other looks bored. It seems like some sort of business meeting, and the client is being ignored…Not consciously, I flash a ‘look.' She notices and apologises after she hangs up.
She asks if I'm studying. No, I say, working, I'm a journalist...
Something clicks in her memory.
'Did you ever live at __ Lawrence Hargrave Drive?'
'Across from Jim's Fish Shop?'
'That's the one.'
Like the sports reporter, she too recalls that I worked for the paper and asks about my “boyfriend.”
I cringe a little at the thought of inflammatory arguments and the narrow hallway that divided our flat from theirs.
We talk and talk, migrating to the old fish and chips place for lunch together- it's now far swankier with new owners, a new name and a significantly pricier menu. We fill each other in on the details of our lives, though to be honest, I still don’t really remember them...
They invite me to a community event that evening, and I plan to go. We exchange email addresses and I promise to send a list of recommendations for their upcoming trip to Tasmania.
The encounter really brightens my day.
But despite lingering in town all afternoon to attend the event with them later, I ultimately decide not to bother; it’s cold, I’m not dressed properly for an evening do, and the sunset over the beach makes a stronger bid for my time...
Busy life takes over, and I neglect to send that promised email.
It’s strange, and sort of nice, to be remembered.
But it’s also sort of nice to be anonymous...