I was shrugging my way down the aisles of woollies tonight and recognised someone across the tomatoes that I hadn't seen for years, Years, YEARS.
I worked with him for a few years, when I was a casual and going to uni. He was a few years older, into a bit of pot and lanky, but he was a good guy at heart and always good for a chat.
The place was always a bit of dive - a collection of randoms from all walks of life. Of particular note were two girls who lived together and worked together and only hung out together. Their pay combined was enough to cover the rent, some pot and a few Cadbury Breakaways.
I noticed him spending more time with the girls, hanging out with them more in and out of work, and spending more shifts shuffling around in a bit of a daze.
There was rumour that he'd cheated on his girlfriend - the sister of one of the other staff - with the shorter and 'smarter' of the two girls. His girlfriend of years had found out and dumped him. Nothing was said to him but his behaviour was noted - he was sadder, more withdrawn and quieter. I'd make an extra effort to try and talk more, keep him involved and keep him in touch, but never talk about any of the issues - how could I?
I came in early one afternoon, on a day where he started at lunch and worked through until 8. The manager had also arrived and told me that I had to do the washing up first thing. I must've looked puzzled - each time he did the day shift he was always sure to do the washing up for us - but did it without asking.
As I was washing, he came around the back of the store to wash his hands at the sink next to mine, and I was the only one to see the bandages on his wrists.
"What have you done?! Why?!"
"Please don't tell anyone" he said "it's nothing. I couldn't do it - it looks worse than it is. Please don't tell."
It wasn't long after that that he left. He couldn't keep working with the girl that had ruined his happiness - a moment of weakness on his behalf, an opportunity that came without remorse for her.
I'd often wondered where he was. What he was doing. How he was going. In the years since I'd seen him I'd run that scene over and over through my head.
I was so glad to see him, so glad he saw me, so glad I could finally put my worst fears out of my head.
"I almost didn't recognise you!" "Time has ravaged me, huh?"
We were able to chat quite openly, interupted only by customers trying to get to the zuchinis behind us. He'd lived with the two girls for about a year, but got sick of the drama. They'd stolen a lot of his stuff, then lied to the police when they were called in to assist him in getting it back. His last moment of triumph was telling the taller girl what the other really thought of him as he left the house for the last time.
He's moved onto bigger and better things, a job that challenges him and keeps him learning. He ran into the short girl that ruined his life - his job took him to her job. The first thing she asked was "what are you doing here?!" his reponse: "trying not to kill you". She changed jobs, but his job took her to her new job as well. They still don't speak.
We did the catching up thing "Where are you living?""Who do you keep in touch with?""Do you remember?""Are you seeing anyone?"
It was not long before his shopping mate met up with him again, paid groceries in hand.
"It was good to see you again!"
"Absolutely. I'll see you around, yeah?"
And although we didn't swap numbers or details, it was one of the rare occassions where I really did mean it