Notes On The Journey Home
Written by Stacie Withers on Thursday the 30th of September 2010
I mark my place in my book with the business card of the shop it came from. The bus station is like a long, concrete wind tunnel and I tug the zip of my jacket up to my chin. The young man, sitting on the floor opposite me, glances over from time to time, and I look away, hurriedly, afraid I should be caught watching. "Anyone for Victoria, please! shouts a large man with a red face, his belly straining the buttons on his National Express shirt. A middle aged woman, with boots that are too young for her, totters towards him, brandishing her ticket like a weapon. The 339 for Grimsby starts it's engine and the huddle of smokers standing by the luggage compartment take their last desperate drags before jumping on board, just as the driver is about to close the door. I look up once more, but the young man opposite is gone. I feel surprisingly angry at him for not making his departure known. Establishing eye contact with someone is almost an introduction and deserves the same good grace. The large, square clock suspended from the roof of the station glares down at us, it's unforgiving bare light reminding us that we cannot leave yet. As swiftly as he disappeared, the young man returns, with a cardboard cup of coffee and a cheese roll. He looks over at me as he sits down and I am ashamed of myself for being so satisfied with this small gesture. A young girl in a school uniform walks by and I stare at her, with my mean eyes, angered by her over enthusiastic breasts. A school uniform is not meant to have curves like that, you earn curves like that. I haven't earned mine yet and I feel flat and boyish as the young man glances over his cheese roll and watches her pass. We are finally allowed to board the coach, even though it isn't due to leave for another twenty minutes, and I am grateful to be out of the wind as the tips of my fingers are milky white with cold. I settle into a window seat and adopt my mean eyes again, warding off anyone who may consider sitting next to me. An older woman, with lank, greyish yellow hair, complains to the driver about the lack of nicer toilets in the station. About 18 months ago the toilets were closed, due to the number of glue sniffers and smack-heads using them, and had not reopened. Instead, they have a row of porta-loos outside which, according to the yellow haired woman, are unacceptable. "We are the customers. she squawks. "We are supposed to come first. Even in the war, we managed to provide people with clean loos! I look at her, decide she can't be more that 60, and wonder which war she's talking about. I'm pleased to see the young man from outside, now sitting across the aisle from me, smirking into his coffee. We are the youngest people on the coach, a mercy for the driver, who tells me that, the stop before ours, he had dropped of a mother and her four toddlers, all of whom had wailed and sobbed and chewed and pooed all the way from Plymouth. Our youth and our giggles both offend the yellow haired woman, and she loudly explains to the bored looking man sitting next to her that, during the war, she and her friends knew to respect their elders. This makes us laugh even more and the young man spills coffee down himself as he tries to stifle the sound.I settle back into my seat as the coach shudders into life. The young man looks as though he is about to make conversation, so I put on my headphones and stare, intently, out of the window. This kind of relationship is ruined the minute it becomes an acquaintance. Speaking to each other would only destroy the image each of us has built up of the other, and I won't let him ruin things by being himself.