She edges slowly towards my table, her long thin face framed by wispy white hair that has escaped her ponytail; her body is supported by two long poles designed with mountains in mind rather than the uneven sidewalks and other perils of a trip to the shops. Those sticks are a poor stand-in for the walking frame she clearly needs.
I don't know if the plastic gloves she wears are a sympton of an unhealthy obsession with germs or a necessary measure to protect a compromised immune system.
As she slowly lowers herself into the seat beside mine I offer to help, hoping this doesn't cause offense. She allows me to balance the hiking sticks against the wall behind us and after that we sit in silence, an occasional glance met with a small smile. I find it hard to concentrate on my reading, and am unsure if some light conversation would be welcomed or considered an intrusion.
As she readies herself to leave, she anxiously surveys the distance from her seat to the door and seems intent on making sure she doesn't leave anything of herself behind.
"Don't worry about the coffee cup," I say. "I'll pop it in the bin."
She accepts my offer but refuses anything more. I make sure her hiking sticks are ready for her to grab once she is in an upright position but leave her to make the epic journey alone from chair to door and beyond.
She makes it safely outside but is confronted by a ramp with a slight incline that to her represents a challenge of monumental proportions.
I breathe a sigh of relief after she leaves, settling back into my reading, constantly checking the clock to make sure I make the most of my final minutes before school pickup. And then I notice that the coffee cup she left behind has her name inscribed in clear black marker on its side. Marcelle.
A beautiful name. I read more into this new piece of information than is reasonable, but it somehow comforts me to think that this proud woman, with her hiking sticks and plastic gloves, has gone through life with such a distinctive moniker.
I pick up my phone and take a photo of the cup bearing her name before returning to my book.