In which I am a terrible person

I have a cold. This means, as it always does, that I’m coughing up half a lung several times an hour and will be for about the next fortnight. It’s just the way it is. I’ve almost forgotten I’m doing it.

I very much forgot I was doing it around 10pm one night last week, on the bottom deck of a pretty empty 21. A couple of stops later I looked up from my book to see a decorously dressed (by which I mean, she was wearing a hat) middle aged black woman stood next to me, silently holding out a couple of butterscotch sweets.

I gave her a blank expression. No, that’s not true. That’s what I’d like to think I did. In reality, I suspect I gave her more of a baffled-scornful combo, and said “thanks, I’m alright”. She closed her hand and got off the bus.

Only ten minutes later I realised she must have heard me coughing and was being lovely and kind by offering me something to suck.

In my – slim – defence, I would like to state that living where I do, most decorously dressed middle aged black women I meet are determined to bring me to the bosom of Jesus. Only last Monday (which, now I think about it, was Easter Monday. Hmm) I nodded in greeting and said hello to a decorously dressed middle aged black woman on my street, who immediately took this as a sign that I might be interested in reading a pamphlet about the Lord.

I need a badge. Actually, I need two badges. One that reads “It’s alright, it sounds worse than it is”. The other: “Beyond saving”.


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