Monday, January 18, 2010

Missives from the Bus.

HOME TO TOWN

It's Monday and I'm LATE. I wasn't going to be late (if I leave at ten thirty I can make it no problem) but then it got to ten fifteen and I had stuff, twenty five minutes' worth of stuff, to do. Now it's ten to eleven and I am twenty minutes away.

This is normal.

The bus rumbles its complaints along the pot-holed roads of South Manchester, collecting dispirited-looking people and students.

LATE. I try to tell myself it doesn't matter (it never has before) but I still feel anxious, my nerves tightening with every stop.

The wheels on this bus go square.

Past Whitworth Park. A gritty, misshapen lump of snow squats stubborn amid a new shock of green grass, twigs stabbed into it at odd, violent angles. One of the few remaining survivors of the recent holocaust thaw.

Past the Contact Theatre. Ben is inside, rehearsing for the show that is coming up in just a few weeks. His fleeting kiss goodbye as he flew from the house, after a flappy flurry of breakfast-eating-lunch-making-email-checking and instructions to hang up the washing. I smilescowl at the recent trauma of hanging up eighteen-billion sopping socks with only five minutes left before LATE and still having teeth to brush.

I glance down to my wrist, where my watch sits, and smugly informs me that TICK I am now TOCK officially LATE.

BEEP. My phone. It's Teemu, to tell me that I can go to his flat for my guitar lesson anytime from five.

Past the BBC. I glower enviously at the people walking about gaily, free from the burden of ever-increasing LATE. The bus rounds the corner onto Portland Street. I text work. A tiny white lie.

The boy in front of me finishes rolling his cigarette.

11.01 says the Portland Tower clock.

I shift in my tights-under-skinny-jeans and lick my lips.

The rain begins to polka dot the window and I stand up.

TOWN TO HOME

Red lights from the cars in front bleed through the drizzlesteam glass. Tinny R&B squawks from the back seat where three teenage girls in headscarves giggle and shriek. Another teenage girl sits across from me speaking quietly and seriously into her mobile, blue-trainered feet crossed neatly. I steal a glance at her as she sighs wearily and gestures, a discreet display of adult frustration.

Traffic lights green.

We overtake a cyclist, and another.

I am thirsty and my arms ache. I was late for work, flustering into the tiny kitchen, coat half-off. Becky laughed. The boss wasn't there. I slowed down, regretting my tiny white lie. All day I alternately bounced and sloped about, making coffee, sandwiches and customer conversation about weather and weekends. Making lists and writing words on tiny scraps of paper.

The bus judders, sending my pen screeching across the page.

At four thirty I retrieved my guitar from where I had hidden it in the store cupboard. I walked to Timpsons, then to Boots. I drifted around the make up counters, Estée Lauder, Chanel, Dior, drawing red stripes on the backs of my hands. Hotly aware of the stares of the make-up counter girls, blinking slowly at me, eyelids weighed down with more mascara than most people would wear in a year. At the Lancome counter one approached. I am looking for some red lipstick, I explained. She nodded sagely and pulled one from the rack. I shook my head. "Too orange." I motioned to my left hand, where that particular shade nestled in stripe form. She scrunched her face, and I watched for any falling chunks of orange foundation.

"This one's lovely" she begins again, brightly. "Loads of people are loving..."

I interrupted her pitch. "I think that's too dark."

Then felt a bit guilty. "Thanks, though."

She sniffed, blinked, and turned to another customer without another word.

"Can I help you?"

"I'm looking for some mascara."

"Oh, did you want mascara that really gives your lashes amazing volume?"

"Yes!"

"Well, this one's perfect..."

No, I thought, spitefully. She wants mascara to make her lashes hang flaccidly from her face like narcoleptic spiders.

(I was just jealous. I always want salespeople to like me.)

I bought a lipstick, eventually, from Benefit, where the girl did a passable job of pretending that in another life we might have been friends.

I trudged to Teemu's flat, where he let me in with a flourish. He sat regally in his arm chair while I show him my new guitar. "It's blue!" I exclaimed, pointlessly. He inspected it and nodded. Very nice. (He knew I was getting it, Ben having let him in on the secret before Christmas.) I played him the song I have been practicing, messing it up because my hands were cold and I really wanted to get it right.

We had our lesson, he gave me a chord sequence he has already written a song with, so I can write one and we can compare. He talked about Bob Dylan, we discussed films we've seen and the choir concert from before Christmas.

After a while he walked me through town, where I abandoned him to run for the bus, hooking my thumbs around the straps on my guitar case to stop it leaping about. Jumping onto the bus, I was disappointed that the driver offered no word of congratulation for my impressive sprint. I climbed the stairs and sat.

The bus pulls around the corner.

I should stop writing now. I hope Ben is home, and I hope there is some wine.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I LOVE this - especially the beginning home to work section.

It's more poetic than you sometimes write.

If you wrote a whole book like that I would buy it even if I didn't know you, and feel ripped up by jealousy, given that I do know you.

Let that inspire you (!!)



Alex x x x

4:16 pm

 
Blogger Dan Harvey said...

I'd buy it too and I don't know you.

1:40 pm

 
Blogger Ellie said...

You've got an eye and the words for detail! xx

12:19 pm

 
Blogger Benjamin Mellor said...

I don't read this blog as often as I should (foolishly thinking that living with you will provide me with sufficient information about your life and thoughts) but when I do I'm always struck by how brilliantly you write. If you're ever in need of a poetry/song-writing exercise you should take this post (or any of your others) and make it into a poem/song. This would make a particularly brilliant poem I think. x
ps sorry for asking you to hang out the washing.

5:55 pm

 
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