Bibi had specific shops for specific products. Daveed was still getting used to the tour, and the way everyone had started greeting him, recognising him as Asha’s charge. They asked how she was doing, how he was doing, how about her grandson, was he back yet? Could she ring them tomorrow night about the sewing machine they’d borrowed? Would she be able to come to the birthday party?
It was strange. It was nice. They all smiled and trusted because he came with her seal of approval, and they helped him pack the shopping bags and asked whether he was eating properly or whether he wanted a haircut, cheap, just at their son’s place around the corner, you must have seen it…
It was a community. Daveed, in his too-baggy, too-short jumper, shopping bags on both shoulders, was welcomed into it simply because he had a scrap of paper in his hand written by everyone’s favourite grandmother.
None of them touched him. That was something he dwelt on, that he thought Bibi must have spread around before he started doing the weekly shop for her. They all knew already that he didn’t want to be surprised with touch.
And so, when a hand settled on his shoulder as he was waiting at a crossing, he didn’t immediately collapse. He turned, instead.
“Don’t kneel,” the Teacher said, smiling genially, right behind him with his hand still raised. “Cross the road.”