“You’re not on the phone then?”
I look to my left and notice the guy sitting on the opposite side of the bus. I just want to look out of the window and watch the world go by. I really don’t want to talk. But he doesn’t get the hint.
“E-everybody’s on their mobile n-nowadays, it’s s-spoiled the art of con-con-conversation,” he says.
Leave me alone. I just want to be left with my thoughts. I want to watch the river in the distance gently winding its way inland. I don’t want to make casual and pointless chit-chat with you. You just want to tell me something that’s really boring, and probably about yourself.
“I guess it has,” I respond flatly before turning my head back.
“Hmmm,” he says.
I automatically turn towards him again. He’s wearing a red and black tartan lumberjack jacket and is unshaven. He kind of reminds me for a moment of the actor Eddie Marsan.
“You’re n-not a g-great con-conversationalist then?” he adds.
“ ‘Fraid not,” I say. “My wife says I’m too quiet.”
Can’t you get the hint mate, I mean what gives you the fucking right to demand conversation from me?
I look around the top deck of the bus (I’m at the front) and count three other passengers. There’s probably only about seven in total on the vehicle. Why have I got stuck with the ‘nutter’?
I look out the window again.
He mutters something.
I ignore him.
We get to the outskirts of town and he gets up out of his seat. As the bus slows down for the stop he says sarcastically to me: “It’s been really n-nice t-talking to you.”
Yep, It’s a b-been a f-fucking pl-pleasure!
“Yeah, have a good day,” I respond cheerily.
He makes his way down the staircase to the lower deck and gets off the bus. Out of my space. Out of my life.
For a moment I think about life, chance encounters and what could have happened. Maybe he was a bona fide nutter. Perhaps he could have pulled a knife on me. He could have killed me. Could have.
I get off two stops later. Walk along the Esplanade to the swimming pool.
I get undressed, put my bathing trunks on, stick my clothes into the locker and then get into the pool.
There is only one other swimmer in the water.
I push away from the side and start swimming gently.
I feel relaxed and I realise, as I pull myself through the warm and clear water reflected blue by the floor of the pool, that not only is there only this moment but that the ‘totality of everything’ is no larger than what I perceive, what I can conceive, in that very moment. It really is a small world.
A little later as I rinse myself under the showers just prior to getting dressed it suddenly occurs to me that I have failed to pack my towel…