It’s not your typical situation. Frankly it never crossed my mind that I’d run into one of my characters at the supermarket. And yet there he was, in his mackintosh, burgundy scarf, brown hat and briefcase, pondering whether to take low-fat milk or the strong stuff. He might as well have a green apple in front of his face.
I walk over to him and say hello. He smiles politely and puts the milk back on its shelf. I ask him how he’s been and he crosses his hands behind his back and, shifting his weight from one leg to another, says he’s been doing fine. I ask him about the boy, and he says he’s doing ok, you know, considering. I nod.
Her death is hanging over both our heads, but neither of us will dare mention it.
“My son and I are coping as best we can,” he says, trying to reassure me with a polite smile. He’s not trying to be hurtful like This Charming Man. “Of course, things are not as good as they were in the beginning, but you know. I suppose life will go on for him and me.”
I feel embarrassed for him; there’s something I haven’t written that he doesn’t yet know, and I don’t want to cause a scene at my local supermarket. I will, after all, have to show my face here again; him, not necessarily. In situations like this, my awkwardness comes out and my foot strategically positions itself within my mouth.
“Of course, your son,” I say, trying not too sound to obvious. But it’s too late; he asks me why I’m italicising that way. “Oh, oh, no reason,” I tell him, feeling my face blush crimson, that inescapable heat burning behind my ears. “You know me,” I tell him, “Justifying formatting isn’t one of my strengths.”
He looks suspicious. I hate lying to characters. No matter how indifferent or trusting you try to make them, they will stay true to their nature to the end. Nowhere Man is an accountant, and his nature is to get to the bottom of things.
I try to go back to the original subject, and tell him the low fat milk in Switzerland is very good. Almost as good, I say, as the normal stuff. I mean, personally, I tell him, I can’t even tell the difference.
The italicising is out of control, and I can’t stop it.
I make an awkward exit by saying I completely forgot to get something from the cleaning products section. I smile, shake his hand, and walk away, hoping he doesn’t see my ears burning red as I walk away. Maybe I should have told him the truth. But how would that affect the boy? Should I have thought about this before I even started a conversation with him?
I turn around, determined to tell him, but he’s gone… I’m immensely relieved.
Thank you so much for reading, and have a good night.