Ben stopped his rushing past. Three times in his life he’d gone down this route to his new flat and he now realised each time the old guy had been there. He looked around then approached.
“Hello,” he said. He was waiting for one of two reactions. Either the old man would start snarling and swearing or he’d break out into a smile. Ben held his hand out to show he wasn’t a threat. The old man broke out into a smile. “You okay, fella?” Ben asked.
“Oh, fine yes. Hello.”
“What are you up to?”
“I’m, erm, just… just waiting. You know.”
“How long have you been waiting?”
“Oh, a long time but… I think… soon. She has to.”
“Yes, my… my wife. I think… I think she’s coming soon. Yes.”
Ben considered the man. He reminded him of his Granddad, God rest his soul. Although the old man was smiling there was a real sadness in his eyes. Especially when he mentioned his wife. Ben imagined him in his youth. Chasing rabbits and full of vigour. “I don’t think she’s coming today.”
“Oh, no? I think…”
“Why don’t we get you some soup?”
Ben thought an old person was just what their flat needed to complete the homey vibe and his wife would be stoked. And anyway, he couldn’t just let him stand here for years, waiting for a woman who had long since passed away.
“Yeah, does that sound good? Does it? Does that sound good?”
“Soup,” the old man repeated and then nodded. Ben untied him from his trolley. “But… but. I should wait.”
“We’ll worry about that later. Find out what happened to her. Come on.” Ben held the end of the string and took hold of his trolley for him. They walked. The old man gazed over his shoulder. “It’ll be okay,” soothed Ben.
“Oi, what are you doing with my husband?!” Came a screechy shout which was perfectly timed with the old man squeezing Ben’s arm. Pinching it really.
“Run!” said the old man. Ben instinctively started running with the old man trying to keep up. And then he instinctively stopped.
“I thought she was dead?”
“I’ve been trying mate, believe me,” he replied, now trying to drag Ben along.