A couple came into the shop together, but he tried to leave. She said, ‘No, stay, Frank’, and he did.
She said to me, ‘It’s all right, just done me hands at the doctors, Frank, do your hands’, and he did.
Then she said, ‘This is very nice here, but I’ll think we’ll go get a cup of coffee instead’, and they did. But they came back.
She loved books. ‘Vanity Fair, I loved that on the television, the blond guy. That actor, he was gorgeous, do you know the one?’ But I didn’t know it.
‘I’ve read 22 biographies of the stars. Now that Yoko – she was a terrible, terrible person. It’s now wonder he was the way he was. It’s because she was terrible to deal with.’
She stood at the counter, dignified and straight and kind, and told me about various things. She bought Vanity Fair, a biography of Vanessa Redgrave, David Copperfield, The Harp in the South, The Constant Gardener and Pinocchio. Then she turned to find Frank, but he had left the shop.
She said, ‘He’s got hearing aids, but I swear he still can’t hear anything, especially me.’
I thought that this was probably true. She darted out of the shop, was swift in the doorway, she flitted past the window to their parked car. Here, through the window I could see Frank, leaning against the passenger side, smoking.
She said loudly, ‘Frank, you have to pay for the books, that’s what I said, remember.’
He said, ‘I’m ready. Where’s your stuff?’
They came back in, and she picked up her books from the counter, he handed me a credit card. She sighed and frowned, but he looked unperturbed. He winked, paid, and said, ‘All done Mrs.’
Illustration by Marius van Dokkum