Waiting
By Stef Hall
Published: October 16, 2007

Her name is Kathleen. She sits on the wall outside the tower block, eyes as blank as the walls she watches. Her salt and pepper hair is tamed into a victory roll although one tendril as always has broken loose and snakes down the side of her slack face to coil against her collarbone. Her 1940s green dress is faded, torn on the shoulder and she covers it with a dusty pink cardigan.

Every morning she comes, painstaking slow down the many flights of stairs because the lift is broken. Every evening as the light fades she retires, wordless. The stairwell is heavy with the fug of urine.

I see her every day and pause to greet her, but she never speaks.

This morning another woman sat beside her on the wall, neat in a tailored suit. She held Kathleen's hand tenderly in hers and talked to her softly. I stopped to greet them.

"Sorry, Mum doesn't say much."

"I see her every day... What is she waiting for?"

"She's waiting for the postman to bring the news that my father is coming home."

"Oh, he's gone away?"

"He died in 1943."