Don't know why, but last week I had Kate Bush songs playing in my head and this week, It's been Peter Gabriel songs, namely, 'Red Rain', 'In Your Eyes' and 'Don't Give Up' as if they're on a loop. Not that I mind - the lyrics of 'In Your Eyes' - The light, the heat, I am complete...' just wonderful.
I've added another one of my ink scratching's about someone on a bus journey.
Hope you like it
Speak to you soon
Scrawny Sushi Eater
The bus stopped suddenly, jerking forward as the air brakes kicked in, lurching my stomach forward and snapping my head back slightly. The doors opened and a blast of freezing cold air rushed in and around my ankles and kneecaps, reminding me how cold it was that evening.
I shifted slightly in my seat, pulling my gloves on tighter and my collar up as high as it would go.
A young couple got on the bus, the man moaning at the bus driver that they had been waiting over 20 minutes and asking him what had happened to the bus that hadn’t turned up fifteen minutes earlier. The driver advised him he didn’t know as he had been driving this bus for the last hour.
The guy just stared at him, his jaw set firmly in place, grinding his teeth for a couple of seconds - weighing up whether it was worth starting an argument over. But in the end he just shrugged and decided it was too cold for that.
He nudged his girlfriend in the arm and gesticulated with some agitation, for her to move down the bus. He muttered that the driver was ‘a fuck-wit’. His girlfriend rolled her eyes as they passed my seat and went to sit at the back of the bus where the big heaters were situated, all the time, having an animated whispered argument about whether the driver really was a ‘fuck-wit or not.
Creeping onto the bus, practically invisible behind this scene, was what looked like a small bundle of clothes with legs and one of those ‘Peruvian’ woolly hats with bobbles on the end of the chinstraps popping out of the top of the bundle where I assumed the head would be.
It walked towards were I was sitting and as it walked, the hat got pulled off and shoved in a pocket.
She was what we used to call a ‘slip of a girl’. I guessed she was all of five feet three inches standing on tip toes.
You could tell she looked a lot older than she actually was. Her face was gaunt and pallid. No makeup to cover the small patches of dried skin around her nostrils. Her eyes were a muddy brown, no light or sparkle to be seen. Older looking, but still with the fluid movements of a younger person.
Her straggly, dyed black hair flopped out of the top of a chunky hair bobble which held her scraped back ponytail tightly, as if to stop it from making a desperate escape for freedom and crawling away into a dark hiding place.
Scrawny and pinch-faced, her voluminous parka coat was wrapped around her like a blanket.
If it ever fitted her, it was another life time ago.
Grey shapeless leggings listlessly hung from her skinny pipe-cleaner legs, fitting where they touched. From her feet, dangled a pair of bedraggled well-worn grey and white trainers. They looked as if they were on their last legs - or should I say last feet. Battered and unkempt, sadly matching their owner.
She clutched a plastic carrier bag close to her right hip as she sat down, scrunching herself up like a discarded chip wrapper on the seat opposite me on the bus.
Placing the plastic bag down on the vacant seat next to her, she first peered in as if not knowing what she would find there. Then, on deciding it looked safe enough to put her hand in, she proceeded to empty the contents, one by one, on to the vacant seat.
Out came an assortment of items - a small vacuum sealed pack of sushi - marked across the front with a big orange ‘reduced’ sticker - a small can of fizzy energy drink, (I don’t know how people can drink that stuff – It smells like a chemical factory) a small packet of loose tobacco and cigarette papers (colloquially known as ‘skins’ - I think) and a packet of mint ‘TicTacs’ made up the rest of the contents.
The plastic bag she lets fall to the floor of the bus without a second’s hesitation or care.
She scoffed the sushi down as if someone was about to grab it from her. Greedily licking her fingers and palm, where the wasabi sauce had leaked out and trickled down her hands.
At that moment she realised she had no napkins or even a tissue. She gave out an exasperated ‘Urrgghh’ noise along with a few choice Anglo Saxon words, then shrugged and wiped her hands on the inside of her coat.
After this feline – like cleanse, she shoved the tobacco and skins in one pocket of the parka and the mints in another. Then she sat sipping the energy drink slowly – I assumed this was because she had eaten the sushi too fast and was worried about the sushi ‘reappearing’ if she drank too fast on top of it.
She allowed the empty packet from her meal to also fall to the floor alongside the plastic bag without a flicker of acknowledgement or any intention of picking it up again.
Shuffling herself across the seat to the condensation-covered window – (practically rolled herself up into a ball), she pulled a clunky looking mobile phone from her voluminous coat pocket and presses a ‘fast dial’ number.
She proceeded to negotiate in an animated manner an order for drugs as if she was ordering a pizza. Part way through the conversation, her voice changed to a wheedling whiney tone trying to persuade whoever was on the other end for a bit extra ‘on account’ and she will ‘sort something out’ for payment ‘You know me, I’m good for it’ she said a few times. Not caring in the slightest whether people could hear her or not, or what they would think. Totally caught up in the deal she was making, oblivious to anything outside of her phone.
She then leans forward in the seat and calls someone else, begging them to lend her some money ‘until next week’. Telling them she needed it for bills - a ‘red reminder’. She tells them that she will meet them now to collect it, but no, she can’t stay.
Deals made, she shoved her phone back into her pocket. Her hands reach up and pull her hair bobble to make her ’facelift’ ponytail even tighter than before. How the skin on her face didn’t split with the tension I don’t know.
She sits back in her seat again, wiping a hole in the window condensation with her sleeve.
She thrust her hands into back into her pockets, knees jiggling, oblivious to the rest of the passengers disapproving glances and ‘tuts’. Pressed her forehead against the window for a moment and then looked out into the foggy gloom, watching for her stop.
As I watched her from where I was sitting, amazed at the transformation from quiet dishevelled bundle of clothes to animated ‘druggy’ and back, she sniffed continuously and wriggled in the seat as if a family of fleas had taken up residence in her coat, occasionally darting up like a startled Meer cat, thinking she had missed her stop.
I wondered how she had arrived at this juncture in her life. What set of circumstances had occurred and what decisions were made along the way to get her to this point.
She seemed so wretched, but as hard as granite at the same time. A stark vulnerability coupled with a street wise cunning and maybe even a sly viciousness creeping into her personality.
All of a sudden she jumped to a standing position, yanked her phone from her pocket and leaving the detritus in a wake behind her - stumbled towards the front of the bus, talking urgently into her phone ‘I’m here, I’m here. Two minutes!’ she shouts. She hopped off the bus and sped off into the freezing dark passed the street lights illuminating the bus stop.
I couldn’t see where she had gone, so I faced forward again on the bus, shaking my head slowly at the thought of a life lost in that vicious repeat performance she seemed to have gotten herself into.
Continuously focused on obtaining the next ‘buzz trip to oblivion’ with no regard for self or others. Who knows what she would do when the money finally ran out for the next high - and how far she would be willing to fall down the rabbit hole of desperation and denigration before she would seek help.
Or would she just go on until the sharp, cold end of a filthy needle in some squalid damp squat somewhere finished her off?
Was she a forgotten soul, lost and alone? - Or was someone still out there wondering where she was? If she was safe? Wanting her to get in touch? Had she burnt all of her bridges on the way, flinging the lit matches behind her without a care as to the damage done? To march on into oblivion knowingly.
The doors closed and the bus pulled away from the stop. I silently hoped she would find her way back from the void, sighed and then stopped thinking about her.
Isn’t that what we all do?
© Kate McClelland 2015