Madam X


Two sentences and I just know the lady in front of me on the train is going to get off  in my hometown. It’s not her accent that gives her away, but her way of being and gossiping. Dressed up, since she was spending the day in the big city. Including that typical ladylike red lipstick that I love so much. Slightly bending over to her friend, almost whispering every gossip. Occasionally, the friend shouts a summary of the gossip to her almost deaf husband.

However, gossip – I do exaggerate. The lady merely tells her friend that she thinks Madam X does not look very healthy. Madam Y however looks much better after a heavy flu. The friend gives her a very worried look. She wears a way too big red coat and utters ‘oops’. And shouts at her husband – who’s staring out of the window – that Madam X does not look well. Maybe he is pretending not to hear them, I imagine, because  the opinion of the lady doesn’t bother him. Or maybe the health of women he does not know personally, just doesn’t interest him at all.

I suppress the tendency to take part in the conversation. Is Madam X the one whom I think she is? Because if she’s the one I think she is, it makes perfect sense that she does not look well. Her husband has just died. I do know Madam Y. Or maybe not. She lives/lived (no idea if she’s still living there) across my aunt’s. I may have sat on her lap  in my grandparents’ hairdresser’s saloon when I was a little girl. Maybe she even read my favorite book about dwarfs to me.  She’s a very sweet lady about. Never heard something bad about her. So I am glad that she’s alright again.

And yet, something bothers me about the way the lady is sharing facts about the health of those women. The tone of voice. The body language. The lady is very proud that she knows something about Madam X and Y who are -oops, I forgot to tell you- highly regarded in the village. Local dignitaries. She’s proud she knows them. Her friend gives her an admiring gaze. Which is exactly what the lady wants. I sigh and remember all of a sudden why I moved to the next city.

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