Last week, on a sunny Thursday evening after work, I’d had a couple of beers with friends who were heading off to watch the rugby. I said goodbye, and hopped on a bus home. I was on the back seat and watched the bus slowly fill with people. An old woman stepped on, and headed straight for my back seat. She asked me if I minded her sitting next to me, and I smiled and shifted along to give her more room. I didn’t pay her much attention. She was wearing a pink t-shirt, and had her hair in a ponytail. She didn’t look very old, for an old person.
I was idly staring out of the window when she turned to me and asked me where I was from. Sometimes I’m shy, sometimes I’m not, and she caught me in a relaxed mood. I told her I lived in a village just north of Leeds. She asked me if I was a student, and I told her not anymore; that now I work in advertising, writing. I asked what she did for a living.
“Oh, nothing anymore, I’m 65. I used to teach, though. When I was your age I did a TEFL. I taught English abroad.”
My ears pricked up. I’ve always wanted to do that. I asked her more.
“I taught in Tangiers, in Morocco. And in Tunisia for a year.”, she told me.
God, I’ve wanted to visit Morocco forever.
“Where else have you been?” I asked. My eyes must have had stars in them.
“Oh, a few places. I think it’s 45 countries. When I was 24 I spent four years in India, in Bombay. I don’t think it’s called that anymore. I used to speak Hindi, but it’s been years. I could still understand it, I think, but I can’t speak it anymore.”
“I’ve always wanted to go to India,” I murmured, by this point a fawning, flopping mess of awe. “I want to go this summer. What should I do?”
She smiled. “Oh, you’ll have some adventures in India. I always preferred Bombay to Delhi, to be honest. I once got chased by an elephant. It was a lot of fun.”
We chatted for the rest of the bus ride. I missed my stop to talk to her for longer, and ended up at the bus terminus. I wasn’t bothered, it was only a short walk back into town.
“We should keep in touch. Do you want to swap phone numbers?” she asked.
She read her number out to me. It was a landline.
“I don’t have a mobile phone. If I don’t answer, just leave me a voicemail I’ll get back to you.”
We said goodbye. She was heading to a singing class. She told me she was a soprano. I came clean and said I didn’t know which one that was, and she explained it was the high notes.
It’s been a week or two and I’ve not called her. I’d feel embarrassed. I’d love to hear more of her stories. She lives nearby, so maybe I’ll bump into her again. She was called Jill.