The decrepit lady in the St Vincent de
Paul cast her eyes over my face and
body. It felt like she was exploring me
for protruding ribs, and other indications
of starvation. She clutched a tiny
notebook, in which she recorded my
name and circumstances. She asked
weird questions. Did I like liver, would
my brother object to tinned beetroot?
She simply couldn’t get over the fact
that our Mother was in hospital. I was
getting impatient. Eventually she
hemmed, and pulled out a rubber stamp.
My request for emergency food aid had
been granted. I was told to wait near the
front desk. I felt exposed. Then a
triangular grinning woman emerged from
a hidden side door, laden with heavy
white plastic bags. I spied a box of
cornflakes and a roll of toilet paper.
This was humiliating. I mumbled an
embarrassed thank you. The door bell
tinkled as I fled. It was like mocking
laughter. I didn’t look back. I knew my
face was bright crimson. William would
be waiting down the street.