Simile Memory
HMP High Down

Read by Mahsuda Snaith

A man gets off a bus, stumbles, looks over and sees a woman smiling. After a few seconds of uncertainty, he recognises her, his eyebrows slowly rising with surprise like daffodil buds on the first day of spring.
“Do you remember me?” she asks after saying his name.
“Of course. Miss Stevenson, English.” He shuffles his feet.
What is the most appropriate way to greet a former teacher whom you haven’t seen for over twenty years? A handshake? A hug? He settles for a timid wave of the hand.

The man’s mind instinctively flicks back to those lessons. He on his own at a desk in the corner, shoulders hunched, still and wary like a mouse in a kitchen. He plucks up the courage to say more.
“I never would have said at the time, but I really enjoyed your lessons. I remember you teaching us about similes.”
“comparing one thing to another, often using the word ‘like’” she confirms, and the man is still able to picture her in front of the blackboard, with a book in her hand, fingers smudges with chalk.
“And how lovely that you remember.”

“I still know an example I wrote in class.” The man surprised himself with his lack of reticence. “Listening to your favourite music with your eyes closed is like drifting high into the sky on a cloud.”

“Brilliant! What a charming simile.” She seemed genuinely touched by his memory, and the man felt a sense of pride rising from his stomach, just as he had on that parents’ evening when she said kind words about him.

“I bet that teaching us lot was something like herding cats.”
“Or like pulling teeth!” she responded, laughing warmly. The sound of it was comforting, like a cup of tea brought to your bedside in the morning. “But teaching was worth it for those ‘gotcha’ moments when inspiration hits your students. When their faces suddenly ignite, like the tiniest lightning strike flickering in their heads.” She looked faintly pleased with the simile she had thought up on the spot.
The man’s eyes were suddenly drawn up the road, to the sight of two buses creaking around the corner, like lumbering centre backs for his local football team.

“Well, this is me” she stated, with a hint of disappointment in her voice. “Typical that two should come at the same time.”
“Like buses!” the man quipped without missing a beat. As the woman stepped on to the bus, she turned to him one last time.
“It was lovely to bump into you.” She visibly racked her brain quickly. “Like finding a good book that you haven’t read in a while.”

“Bye Miss,” he replied with a rich grin, waving more confidently this time as she disappeared amongst the hubbub of the bus. The man stared after it as it departed, fondly watching it drift into the distance like a handkerchief on a beach.