After the meditation session he walked up Piccadilly and took the Victoria Line back home to Balham. Late evening, it was fairly empty and the ride peaceful. He read and made a couple of notes in his diary. When he got home there was a message on his mobile. ‘Hello this is Najma. I found your diary on the train. Call me.’
‘Wow that was lucky’. He dialled the number. The line was bad but they arranged to meet at Brixton Tube station at 10 in the morning. In the mean time he wondered who she was: He remembered a couple of feisty West Indian girls and a boy laughing and joking. Was Najma one of them? Next morning he was up early and went for a swim.
Travelling up and down
The cold pool
He was there ten minutes early and hung around in the entrance so he’d not be missed. A policeman eyed him up. He didn’t know what she looked like! Did she know what he looked like? 10 o’clock came and went and then just as he was beginning to wonder if she was going to turn up, a young woman with a halo of peach-coloured curls caught his eye.
“Hello. Are you Paul?”
“Yes! You made it!”
A young woman, naturally beautiful without conceit or self-consciousness. Before setting out, he’d popped a thank you card and a £20 note in an envelop addressed to ‘Najma’. He handed it over with ‘just a little thank you’.
“You didn’t need to do that!” And then reading the name on the envelope: “But my name is Asma, not Najma!”
It was said with such concern that he took it back and corrected it. He was so struck by her beauty. But what man in the final third of his life has not looked upon a rose and lingered to contemplate its beauty and inhales its scent before walking on. Chance had brought them together for a reason! Why had his diary landed up in her hands? And why did she look at him as if he should have known something?
All of this passed through his mind as he rode back up Brixton Hill. Old fool! He smiled to himself and a young West Indian woman at the bus stop smiled back; or was she just laughing at an old man barely pedalling!
Up a long hill
The unfolding smile
Later he discovered that ‘Asma’ is a Moslem name meaning ‘Supreme’. And he thought of her once more and realised in that moment, he no longer remembered her face.
The fading cadence
Of the bell