Bag Lady

Speaking Soul (3)

Are these yours? she is asking me, pointing at my coat, gloves and hat that I had left on the table when I went to the loo. Because, she continues, I’d left a book open on that chair. Yes, I did find one, I reply, but I thought it was just left behind. No, she says. Do you want to sit here? she asks, for I won’t be long. No, no, I say, picking up my coat and things, you must have it, please.

There is no doubt that she is disconcerting. I do understand his irritation, even if I don’t share it. She scuttles about, rarely being still for a moment. First the toilet, where she leaves behind puddles of water, and then this table and then the next. She never orders coffee, or indeed buys anything from the counter, she merely pours herself a glass of water from the jug and sits down. And there are all her bags. Three of them. Full to the brim with papers, tissues, books and scarves. One day I also saw her carrying a box.

Today she is dressed in fur-lined boots, an ankle-length cotton printed skirt, several jumpers and a parka. And there are two silk flowers Kirby-gripped to her hair.

She has just moved herself and her bags from the table I vacated for her. For Christ’s sake, he says. Look at her, look at her.

She is clearly disturbed. Her actions are obsessive. The other week she stood up to go and clear a table that someone had just left. She piled all the plates onto a tray and put it on the condiments shelf before returning to her seat.

She scribbles and scratches in her books. Sentence after sentence is underlined.

Look, he says, she’s nabbed someone else. I turn to look. She is talking to a young man on an adjacent table. I cannot hear what he has said but she is taking one of his chairs. Five minutes later she is packing up her bags again to leave. I watch from the window. The White Lion has not opened yet. Look, I say to him, they’ve not even got their A boards out yet. That’s odd, he says. What will she do? I ask. Who? he says. The lady with the bags, I reply, she usually goes into the White Lion after here.

I see her crossing the road. She hesitates in front of the locked door. Then strides off up the hill.

I suppose one could spend all day wandering from café to café not actually buying anything, I say to him. Yes, I suppose so, he replies. There’s no harm in it, I say. It’s company, isn’t it? She’s not doing anyone any harm. No, he says, she’s just bloody irritating.