Every time, three mornings a week,
for five or seven years
she smiled with warmth and without effort
clipped the ticket – literally
one less swim from a 20-visit concession –
3×20 gave a free 10
issuing the loyalty card always produced an extra wide smile,
something she genuinely enjoyed, considered a privilege to do so.
Once or twice I forgot, rummaging through my bag
coming up empty-handed,
“ that’s alright,” she snapped the air
“ you come here often enough. ”
When offered the arrears, she waved them away
saying again, “ you come here often enough.”
I never knew her name, never thought to ask,
never overheard it used, or called,
later I imagined I must have. But know I didn’t.
She was just the very nice woman on the front desk.
18 years later,
when late middle age needed to get a grip
and returned to swimming.
She wasn’t there the first two months,
then one Monday morning about the same time
I was holding laminated plastic to a scanner
as I would have been handing cardboard to her
a photo was being attached to the wall above the front desk,
with an inscription,
almost exactly behind where she stood –
“ So long Lovely Jill, rest in peace.”