Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Rediscovering hormones

I struggle with pushing the door and pulling the pram, but eventually we are in. Elsie is twisting round in her seat and demanding more raisins: 'more! more!' but I tell her to wait until we have finished in the shop. She moans, pulling at her straps in a vain attempt to be out, and I scan the shelves. No tea of the kind I want - something with ginger to ease the nauseous lump that has taken up residence inside me in recent days. I push Elsie over to the bread and weigh up the pros and cons of white baguette versus multi-grain baguette. Avoiding taking a decision, I stick one of each under the pram hood and go to pay.

Out of the shop and back on the street, Elsie has lost interest in raisins and sticks her thumb in her mouth; the other hand stroking and pulling at doudou, her blue comfort toy. I swear under my breath as I note the escalator to the metro is not working and carefully ease the pram wheels down each oversized step until we reach the bottom.

A girl in a long skirt, hair pulled back from her young face, is sitting in the dirty entrance to the metro station and holds out a hand. I look her in the eye, say bonjour and continue on my way, justifying my reluctance to give her money in my mind... organised gangs... human trafficking... better to give to organisations that help communities at risk... no guarantee she benefits from what she collects... at the same time as wishing I had brought a banana or muesli bar I could have handed her. 'Excuse me' she calls out after me. I know I won't give her money, but I turn. 'Could I have a small piece of bread?' she asks quietly, pointing at my two baguettes sticking out of the pram. I pick them up and show them to her. "Which do you prefer?' I ask, and when she points at the white one, I hand it to her. "The whole thing?" she is surprised, and thanks me, a smile lighting her face.

I try not to think about how old she might be, or what her daily life is like. My struggles with Elsie suddenly take on proportion: Meaningless ups and downs in a comfortable life. A tear threatens to spill as I walk away.

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