She wore an air of separateness and something else
a quiet that couldn’t be taught and I had yet to learn.
It was most obvious at morning break
there, amidst assembly-line homogeneity, was difference.
While the others talked of children and trivia
swapping stories of school, shopping and TV hero foibles
she decoded cryptic clues
rapidly filling in the blank across and downs.
Memory is exact she was exactly twice my age.
34 to 17
not a coming of age story but
a departure from grace.
She had been practice manager for a legal firm
a glorified secretary self deprecation claimed
engaged to a junior on the brink of a partnership
when chance encountered – an old high school flame.
The school she attended wasn’t bad
just not distinguished, a convergence zone
of almost middle and not quite working class
her early boyfriends from school, mostly good the odd rascal.
This one she remembered even when wise enough to have forgotten
he was in business and needed administrative help
distribution was his line. Stolen alcohol the product.
Things were simple then, no electronic surveillance or record-keeping
a huge warehouse, stock churned quickly no one knew the real numbers.
The work was light, the pay heavy. She was in.
Things were good for a while. Then a bust.
A prison sentence of three years one was served
remission for good behaviour and first offence.
The moral was not to get greedy she said.
In the early days everyone was known in the first person
then friends of friends, later acquaintances of friends of friends
finally a scruffy pale skeleton who looked like a junky
and drove the sorriest old Volkswagen you ever did see.
Except that last day when he arrived in a large sedan
accompanied by colleagues. The police.
Only got myself to blame she said.
Now nothing remained of the once future or fiancé
there was only the present, assembling electronics.