THE MAN AT THE BUS STOP NOT WAITING FOR A BUS
Updated: Sep 10, 2018
This morning trying to finish a piece of writing, I was too late to catch the 10.18 bus taking me up the West Hill to the allotment. I settled for a bus an hour later. Usually when I approach the bus-shelter, I see a group of men waiting for the off-license to open. Then there are the bona fide bus passengers quietly resentful that there is nowhere left for them to sit. Today, because I’m late there is just one man at the bus stop not waiting for a bus. He is tall with long greasy, swept-back greying hair. In my head I call him the main man, head-honcho, man with most to say for himself which I don’t intend to sound derogatory as even when half-sober he is astute and very funny.
Sitting next to him on the bench is a woman I recognise from another place and time. She is in her sixties and has a gentle voice capable of calming the most desperate of spirits. I know her to be a nurse. She is recounting a story to Head Honcho of how she took her grandson to Poundland. He’d never been before and had difficulty comprehending that every item really was just a pound. “What about this paint box, gran? What about these sweets?” He was excited. So many things at so small a price.
“All one pound.” She’d opened her purse and handed him a pound coin.
He looked at the coin. Looked at her. “Mum lets me have a fiver to spend.”
“I told him,” the nurse says, "I’m not made of money and I’m not your mum!" She looks up at Head Honcho who although staring at his battered Smart phone appears to be listening intently.
“Flower, the kids these days,” he shakes his head. “They don’t know the value of money or how to cope with a spot of hard work.”
The nurse agrees on both points although murmuring that her grandson is only six years old.
“It’s never too early to learn, my precious.”
Once again, the nurse agrees.
Under normal circumstances and with no malice intended, Head Honcho calls everyone he speaks to ‘cunt’ as in: Cunt – I laughed my socks off. Or, God bless you, you cunt. I’ve even considered following my late mother’s example and asking him to ‘please moderate his language.’
“Here’s your bus,” HH says with an oblique nod to me.
I return eye contact. As a frequent user of this particular bus stop I feel this acknowledgement is a sign of our mutual respect.
I follow the nurse onto the bus. Behind me, HH puts away his phone to gather up the beer cans and fast food containers, he and his friends have left. I wonder how his day will unfold but as the bus begins its struggle up the hill, in the background I hear the nurse’s voice speaking to another passenger. "My daughter works at the nursing home. I used to work there too."
The bus emerges from the gloom of tightly packed Victorian terraces and breaks through into a perfect world of blue sky, sparkling sea and swathes of green grass. I press the bell.
As I pass the nurse she leans forward, “Darling, I remember you from the memorial party for the lady who loved her dog."
"I remember you too.’ I get off the bus.
The weather is so good, my thoughts become a little sentimental. I’m musing on what a difference darling, my precious, flower make and that everyone of us have those words inside ourselves. All that was needed this morning was for the nurse to chat to HH as if he were a fellow human being to coax them out.