I’m waiting at the bus stop. It’s a bus stop, I’m waiting at it. Surely the bus must come along soon. Because it’s a bus and it must stop here. Because it’s a bus stop.
As I wait at the bus stop, I eye the stranger lighting a cigarette just yards away from me. Is the stranger returning my questioning gaze? Is this person here to spy on me?
I glance at the information board… the bus is coming in five minutes. Five minutes, that’s a long time. I pull my scarf tighter against the cutting wind as I think how long five minutes actually is. One, two, three, four, five. Five minutes.
The stranger too is looking at the information board. What does the stranger want to know? Surely not simply when the bus is due (now it’s four minutes). Is there an edge of menace in the stranger’s hooded eyes? No one who looks at a bus information board is ever looking just for the details of the bus’s arrival time. There are motives, sinister motives that I can’t tell you about. But I might, sometime, perhaps a long time in the future…
I remember I once stayed in a huge hotel, I ate in a big room that was full of other people who were eating food. Why are all these people eating food in a big room, I wondered aloud. Because it’s the dining room, I was told by the overanxious mâitre d’. But was he telling me something more than that this was the dining room and they were “about to stop serving so I’d better sit down because I was blocking the doorway”?
The bus is now three minutes away. Three… minutes. That is 180 seconds… tick tock the seconds go by… the stranger once again casts a weary glance at the bus information board.
Why is the stranger weary, was he once made to sort through a lifetime’s photographs in a chilly house? I bet he was, I can see it in his eyes, the eyes that gaze at the information board… (two minutes to the bus arrival…) A car suddenly pulls up by the bus stop. A car. With people in it. Someone in the driving seat, driving, and someone in the passenger seat, being a passenger. Why would anyone pull up at a bus stop if they weren’t a bus?
I adjust my stance and pretend I’m not looking at them. But I am. The passenger leaps from the car and heads to the newsagent’s near the bus stop. After an unconscionable amount of time the passenger returns, clutching a Twix and a copy of The Evening Standard. Which is free.
You don’t have to pay for The Evening Standard. But you do have to pay for a Twix. A Twix and The Evening Standard. It’s a message, for me, surely. Just for me, and no one else. A Twix and The Evening Standard…
But before I can think any more of their significance I see that the bus is “due”. I grope for my Oyster travelcard. Why is it called an Oyster card? It doesn’t look like an oyster. It doesn’t do what oysters do. You can’t swipe an oyster across a card reader and get on the bus. Yet you can with an Oyster card. Curious.
The bus is here… the stranger stubs out his cigarette and approaches the bus. He motions to me to get on first because I’ve been waiting longer than he has. Or maybe he has another motive… I stare, deaf to the shouts of the bus driver. “Are you getting on or what?” I don’t know… am I getting on? AM I?
To be continued for hours and hours and hours…
Close to The Enemy is on 9pm tonight, BBC2