Jenny (Australia)

I’m in the Safeway Supermarket, Lime Avenue, Mildura, in the rice and pasta aisle where I have come looking for brown rice, when I see half way down the aisle, someone I haven’t seen since my mother’s funeral; Jenny Bower.
She has her profile turned to me so I walk up behind her and say hello ‘Jenny Bower’.
And Jenny Bower, her hands still holding her shopping trolley, turns fully toward me and says my name.
Not just my first name, my whole name.
‘Hello,’ she then says, ‘how are you?’
I say I am fine and she lets go of her trolley and then I put my arms around her and give her a hug.
And she hugs me back.
And because it’s such a joy to see jenny Bower, I have a big smile on my face.
‘How are you? I say, letting her go.
Jenny Bower, who is over 60 years of age, but younger than 70, laughs and tells me she is good.
‘I’m good, Tone,’ she says and then she looks up the aisle at where Shane Cumming and his son, Jake are standing.
‘Shane was just telling me you were here somewhere in the supermarket,’ she says.
I laugh and hold my arms out as if addressing an audience or presenting a car on a game show, and say – ‘And here I am, Jenny Bower, like a miracle,’
Jenny Bower laughs and Shane and Jake call out goodbye and we say goodbye to them.
Then Jenny Bower and I turn to each other and start catching up.
Firstly Jenny tells me about her husband, Graham.’
‘He’s good,’ Jenny Bower tells me, ‘he’s just had a triple bypass,’
‘Well, he’s had a pretty good innings considering that bloody crash,’ I say.
25 years ago Jenny Bower’s husband was involved in a near-fatal car crash when a car ran into his car while he was driving home from work.
I think about how how he had been wobbly on his feet ever since the accident, and how he had always referred to beer as frothy coffee and that he had once worked for Jenny’s father in his hardware shop.
Then I think about how before she had married Graham, Jenny Bower had had a boyfriend whose name I had never forgotten; a Biker called Norrington Helpworth.
Then I stop thinking these things from the past and pay attention to Jenny Bower who is talking about one of her sons and his divorce.
‘I’m getting one too,’ I tell Jenny, ‘my second one,’
‘Oh, Tone,’ Jenny says, ‘I am sorry to hear that,’
‘Not to worry,’ I say, and then we go on to talk about a mutual friend who has also undergone divorce.
‘It’s odd, don’t you think, Jen,’ I say, ‘that none of us came from divorced parents, yet we have all had divorces,’
And I cock my head and frown and Jenny laughs and says ‘Yes, Tone,’
Then Jenny Bower asks me how I find being back home.
I laugh and tell her it’s funny that everyone calls it ‘home’ when anywhere but here has been my home for almost 25 years, but that I am enjoying it, and sometimes I think about moving back.
‘But,’ I say, ‘it is still weird that mum and dad aren’t here,’
And Jenny Bower smiles sweetly and frowns and says ‘I bet it is,’
And then because it’s Jenny Bower I am talking to, and because I suddenly feel I might, I tell jenny Bower I think I am about to cry.
‘That’s alright, Tone,’ says jenny Bower, and she reaches out her right hand and rubs the top of my left arm a couple of times.
I smile at Jenny Bower and say thank you.
‘I’m a bit emotional still, about the way they died,’ I say to Jenny Bower, and she smiles and frowns again.
‘Aw,’ she says, ‘I know Tone, I bet you are. I bet you are.’

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