gallstones and gout

fresh air...

i embarked the 10.05 #39 to Kirkcaldy and paid the driver £3.75 for the privilege of public transport.

i sat by the window and it hit me, stunning my olfactory senses with its sickly sweet intensity. a fragrance. a familiar fragrance. a fragrance i used to wear, only this seemed to have been applied with a heavier hand. my stomach lurched. the smell was completely overwhelming. infused with a heady mix of exhaust fumes, it seemed to hang in the air like a thick and suffocating fog.

a small and wiry man with wire-rimmed spectacles and rodent features opened a window, choking into the sleeve of his ill-fitting polyester suit. he glowered at the woman in front of me as he sat back down, his nostrils quivering like those of an inquisitive rat. i watched him as he pushed his spectacles back up the bridge of his long, bony nose.

i raised my head to the open window and breathed in the fresh air, casting my eyes out over the horizon. it was a cold grey morning.

from the back of the idling bus, i heard idle chatter. people. fuck.

some mornings, i simply hate people.

across the aisle from me, an elderly couple sit holding hands. their love must be 60 years old. between them, they have 4 hearing aids and 2 sausage rolls. the greasy smell of stodgy pastry and animal fats, mixed with the diesel and Dior, made my stomach heave. they talked with loud voices and full mouths. it was quite disgusting.

oh the joy of public transport. she talked of her gallstones; he of his gout.

Ms Dior got up to alight the bus, slamming the window firmly shut as she stomped down the aisle with bowed legs and a harried expression. the bus stopped and she stepped off onto the pavement and continued her day. as the bus continued on its day, i glanced out the window and saw, to my horror, that Ms Dior had a beard.

“i need coffee” i thought to myself. “yes… coffee”.

normally, i need to needle at least 2 cups of coffee before i can even look at other known human beings, let alone strange ones. strangers. people are strange. i am no exception. one thing is for sure, i’ll always be a stranger to someone. perhaps stranger than most.

the elderly couple’s conversation turned to one of death and pigeons, when a petite, olive-skinned woman embarked and sat across the aisle from them. they immediately struck up a conversation. their voices, loud and excitable. i had never been witness to such morbid fascination and zest for death:

“aw… did you hear about Big June?” exclaimed the elderly man
“naw” said the petite dame.
“aw… she’s deid!” roared the old man.

i noticed other passengers, who could not help but overhear, turned their heads to gaze out the window or fumbled with their clothes or possessions – anything to help stifle their laughter and alleviate their fear of appearing to be eavesdropping. but everyone was listening. nobody had a choice.

“oh my” said the petite dame. “is Davey still doon in Durham?” she politely asked.
“aye… aw… Murray. he’s deid tae!” interjected the old woman, with weird enthusiasm.
“oh for the love o’ God!” remarked the petite dame.
“we seen Andy the ither day… ye ken Andy? the big swimmer?” asked the old man.

the woman shook her head.

“Aw… yer bount tae ken Andy! Andy wi’ aw they pigeons!?” he continued, loudly.
“this is my stop” the petite dame stated, getting up to disembark. she teetered down the aisle in scuffed kitten heels.
“see you later, Margo” shouted the elderly couple, in unison.

Margo didn’t reply. maybe she too was hard of hearing.

“she’s a guid lassie” the elderly man wistfully informed everyone.

i hate public transport. this bus journey was swiftly becoming a bad trip.

the bus was full of people and i started to feel like we were all livestock. a bizarre surreality tripped my head; all the passengers took on farm animal features. jesus. maybe i didn’t need more coffee.

a cauliflower-headed old woman in colourful clothes embarked. she adjusted her emerald green pleated skirt as she plonked herself down on the seat. she was a big lady; tall, rangy, with a paunch – and a poncho. the bus picked up speed and she gathered the crocheted fabric of her pastel pink poncho around her shoulders. she sat tight, with her handbag on her lap – clutching it tight and holding it close to her, like it were a rosary. she anxiously drummed her fingers on its taut fabric. i wonder why she seemed so anxious: did she have the crown jewels, or stolen goods in there? or fat wads of fifties all rolled up?

i gave her a smile as i made my way along the aisle to disembark at my stop. as i waited for the bus to slow to a stop, she hijacked my attention by prodding my arm. to my surprise, with a wink and a sly grin, she opened her handbag revealing its contents:

a small turtle.  jesus….

out of courtesy i thanked the driver, for the entertainment more than anything, and stepped onto the pavement.

“wow!” i think. “fresh air…”

a fresh sky. and the sun looks like it’s going to shine for me today…

(c) Kat McDonald 2014


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