Three o’clock in the morning. I gave up trying to sleep and decided to go to the salon. Never a particularly welcoming place, in the middle of the night it was lit spookily by the giant coffee vending machine i took a coffee and sat down with my ipad. Then I heard the sound of a wheelchair coming in. A man took a coffee and we said ‘bonsoir’. All I could see in the dark was a shadowy profile. We started to talk. I asked if he was in for a knee operation. No, he said, he’d had a car accident, was initially in a coma for several weeks. When he finally woke up he could remember nothing from before the accident, in August 2012. His bones were now mended, but he could not walk; it was if the connection between brain and legs had been cut. For him life still started in August 2012. He knows he had a wife (couldn’t work out if they were divorced before or after the accident) and a daughter. Now he keeps a diary, hoping this will help him regain his memory.
I murmured something about how awful. On the contrary, he replied, he knew that before the accident he had not been a very good man (a bit obsessed by his passion for driving big construction machines, and by inference, neglecting his family) and now it was like having a second chance at life, and try to be a different person. What a strange and sad story. We bid goodbye and he wheeled off. We bump into each other from time to time, and say ‘bonjour’ like people who know each other a bit.
The salon is indeed a place where I make acquaintances – usually in daytime – despite it unwelcoming ambience. About the same time I got talking to young woman in a wheelchair, who was puffing away at an e-cigarette. We were joined by a man – an amputee in wheelchair, and we had an animated conversation about smoking, and addictions in general.
Bit by bit my circle of acquaintances grows. Not surprisingly I seem drawn to the slightly more unusual inmates!