The Woman In The Pea Coat

This evening was an evening reminiscent of autumn; where there is a chill in the air, the tiniest sliver of coldness, making you catch your breath. I don’t know where it came from, this breath like frost that ran across the ground because all day the colours in the air were vivid.  Shortly after noon I looked out the window and the sky was blue, freshly painted, free of clouds. I looked for over five minutes and couldn’t see a single band of white. Butterflies frolicked in an aerial display, little wings catching spots of sunlight. It was a day where hope swept as high as the sky.

Then little fingers began to crawl across the ground. Fingers that might have belonged to spirits of ice and snow. I felt a shiver run down my neck as I saw the twilight cling to the walls, muting the bright spring colours into muffled lilacs, yellows and greys.

I saw a woman in the street as I was getting the mail. She had on a coat also reminiscent of something else, another time, another place. 1960s London. A pea coat, double-breasted, navy blue, in Sydney in October.

I thought I was imagining her. I thought the ground-crawling fingers had conjured her up, but she nodded to me and I saw she was real. ‘It’s cold tonight,’ she said. ‘Colder than normal,’ I agreed. ‘Thought I’d air out the coat. I bought it on EBay.’

She spoke to me of things she had bought online, wins and rip-offs, and unexpectedly how she’d found a lorikeet dead in her garden, the saddest of all sights, like someone had taken a hatchet to a rainbow. She didn’t know what had happened to it, if a cat had got it or it had fallen from a tree; but she had been so overwhelmed by sorrow when she had seen it she just had to get out of the house.

I offered to go home with her, to move the dead bird, but she said her husband would do it. She spoke to me of his kindness, his capacity for empathy and how lucky she was. But she also spoke to me of her capacity for sadness, for loneliness even in a room full of people.

I told her we all feel that way from time to time. I told her that sadness warms my skin as a much as happiness does and she gasped, nodding her head.

‘The trees are dark against the sky,’ she said. ‘Their buds are baby fists curled against the night.’

I smiled then as I always do when people take note of beauty and poetry that is right in front of them. As those cold, creeping fingers pulled the night towards us, the woman in the pea coat gathered her collar against her and left. ‘Take care, angel,’ she said, meaning it.

I listened as she walked away, her shoes crunching on the gumnuts scattered by wind and the kids climbing like cats; transfixed, spellbound.

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31 thoughts on “The Woman In The Pea Coat

  1. You are so very skilled in bringing a simple meeting and conversation to life in vivid detail–and giving a glimpse of what might be its broader meaning.

    Keep up the good writing Selma.

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  2. you painted such a vivid moment. and what wonderful words you’ve used. this reminds me of the other tale you told of another woman – a jogger that you met by chance – I like these stories you tell of people you meet. I think this woman with the pea coat must have a sad face or perhaps something interesting. how do your remember what they say? often we don’t remember the strangers in our lives but you certainly do.

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    1. You are right. I had almost forgotten about that jogger. I sometimes think like-minded people are drawn to one another in unexpected ways. Like if you’re having a bad day and someone comes along randomly and smiles or something like that. It just cheers you up. I love encounters like that.

      What they say just sticks in my mind, Lissa. Most of the strangers I’ve met have always had something interesting to say!

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  3. I would have sworn that this was an imaginary meeting (but I see by your comments that it really happened) – it was like you met a timetraveller – love the cooler air to match the meeting – gave me the chills this story – excellent!

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    1. I have met a few time travellers here and there, Gabe, and it is always quite magical. Who knows where they come from. I like your kookaburra avatar, by the way!

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    1. I think a lot of people don’t have anyone to talk to about deeper subjects and sometimes I just happen to be in the right place at the right time. It is a blessing for me.

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    1. I’m hoping to do something soon, Gabe. I doubt I’ll ever get a publishing deal so I will have to self-publish. Thanks for your support. It means a lot XX

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  4. Hey Selma, I so enjoyed reading this, I love when people just pop into your life and there is a connection. It makes you remember to pay attention, you never know how important these meetings are or what relationship you might have in the future .. or it could be that you were just meant to help her in that moment. Anyway, thank you, as always.

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    1. I really value meetings like this too. They are quite special. I think sometimes we can help people without realising and it is a gift if we can do so. Thank YOU for reading xx

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