Love in a bag of plums

There are buildings in this town where life does not look easy. I pass them every day on the way to the school, yellowing apartment blocks with bars across the windows and an unchanging sense of hopelessness in the air around them. The washing that hangs from the bars looks dusty and tinged with exhaust fumes and on summer evenings people sit on the steps outside with faraway looks in their eyes. Nothing much changes here. No one is fixing broken windows or painting time-worn facades. Most days the buildings sit in a huddle of tired resignation whether the skies are blue or not. But yesterday there were two things that gave me a sense of the lives that continue and the hearts that beat in spite of the lifeless buildings that enclose them.

The first was a group of teenagers sitting on a path outside one of the blocks playing a game of cards. They were sprawled and languid in the evening sun and I thought about how good it must feel to be laying back with friends and having nothing else to do but slap cards down on a warm concrete slab. But the real love came at the zebra crossing that leads to the estate. On the centre island were two elderly women with a curly headed young girl between them. They were holding a plastic bag open while the girl reached inside and pulled out a fat purple plum. The look on the ladies’ faces said that no plum on this earth could ever be fat enough or purple enough for their granddaughter. It was a moment of pure and unconditional love I felt privileged to see, like finding a rose on wasteland. It seems I could have been wrong about the absence of hope in those buildings.

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