I often wonder what is in various handbags as they pass by on ladies’ arms. It’s not that I’m a potential thief sizing up the opportunities of seizing them and legging it off down the road. No, I assure you it is a genuine curiosity about their contents.
You can see straight through men’s pockets quite easily – a piece of string, a penknife and a shilling. Never anything else. But ladies’ handbags are often full of the unlikeliest things. So unlikely, I do not even dare to guess.
One day, I spotted a particular handbag floating down the road. I turned a blind eye to the lady who must have carried it, because the handbag looked far more interesting than any lady, an object that was really expensive and at the height of fashion. Large, without being unwieldy. Chunky, yet strangely delicate. With fastenings and straps ... and clips glinting like gold in the sunlight. A multitude of tassels, too, and obtrusive stitching following scar-like tracks along the seams of the various fabrics and cured leathers that constituted the bulk of the handbag. Indeed, its exterior even made me forget my curiosity as to its contents, as if its contents were on the outside and the handbag itself on the inside.
I was startled from my revery when, suddenly, I focussed on the lady herself – or what I had supposed would be a lady, given the femininity of the handbag she carried. But she had slipped by me so quickly I could only see her diminishing backward view as she headed towards turning beyond the corner shop within the blind spot of my following gaze. I started to follow. There was no sight of her. Just a few kids traipsing home from school.
The girls had tiny make-shift handbags with string handles to make them look older than they were. Little bigger than dolls’ handbags. There was one boy among them and he took a rather large penknife from his pocket. And I took a shilling from mine. A fair exchange.
We both smiled and continued on our opposite ways. The girls just giggled.
(written today and first published here)