a rainy day yields to an early finish from work, so i decide to head over to Glenrothes, the town i grew up in, to visit my elderly mother who still lives there. she’s often lonely, rattling around in a house that now seems to dwarf her, so a surprise visit from her youngest is almost always guaranteed to put a smile on her face. my home.
[a strange day, on reflection…]
i stand in the queue, in the rain, in cheerful red boots and faux fur and watch people jostle for position beneath a totally inadequate bus shelter. i watch the elderly women shuffle in, in their ‘rain mates’ – that unsightly but convenient and cheap headwear that looks like a 5p carrier bag tied beneath neatly at their turkey necks, their cauliflower heads are bone dry but their noses dripping with rain water. i watch the young school kids, cajole with their mates in the rain – soaking wet and not giving a shit. i see the smokers suck hard- trying to light their sodden rollups in the driving rain, their cold wet yellow fingers trembling. the joy of public transport.
i move inwards, under the poor excuse for a shelter, and realise it’s as wet inside as out. it’s an extraordinary rain. a rain that seems to be capable of penetrating steel and perspex.
my bus arrives and i move out, back into the rain, to join the queue. the wind ruthlessly whips my face and drives the rain deep into the pelt of my coat, now proving to be a poor choice of attire for such a wet January afternoon.
two young boys stand, with their gaunt mother and kid brother in a push-chair. they are kicking the shit out of one another.
“no YOU’RE gay!”
their antics continue, despite their mother’s best efforts to tell them to: “SHUT THE FUCK UP ‘N’ BEHAVE YOURSELS!”
“GAY FUCKER!!” the fat one squeals at the more handsome kid just before the mother grabs him by the collar and whispers something vicious in his chubby reddening face. i watch as his face reddens and seems to puff up, like an over-inflated balloon. i brace myself for the BANG!
with reluctance, i board the bus knowing that i will have to spend almost an hour, in a confined space, with these little brats.
i take a seat by a window and a hot air vent. nice. i feel it warm my damp bones and, eventually, the shivering stops.
the bus stops at Kirkcaldy train station and i notice a large queue of people waiting to board.
i look out the window and hope nobody sits next to me but… what is that smell? that stink? smells like a stale mop. it can only be one thing. there is only one thing that smells like that. a wet dog.
i look up and, sure enough, there is a pony-sized German shepherd onboard. he lies obediently at his master’s feet. he is a beautiful dog, with an incredibly gentle gaze. i look at him and smile. he cocks his head, intelligently acknowledging me. he is so large, he takes up most of the aisle. i hear people cursing at having to step over him as they negotiate the slippery wet aisle to disembark. the poor creature looks confused. i wonder what he is thinking? poor mutt. he’s probably thinking the same as me.
[are we there yet?]
i look out the window. rainy rivers run down the window pane, inside and out. condensation, glowing amber from the street lights outside. i am tired. i have not been sleeping too well lately.
i glance around me. everyone looks gaunt. post Festive comedown. SAD. back to work blues. a pandemic reality hangover.
a fat lad, in his mid-twenties, sits reading a comic book. i notice his lace is undone on one shoe. it is soggy and frayed. i begin to wonder of i have OCD as this really unnerves me and i feel completely compelled to tell him to tie it. i can’t stop thinking about it.
the rain is getting heavier. the bus sloshes through surface water, aquaplaning it would seem. great arcs, of incredible beauty, spray as the bus ploughs on through the fast-emerging depths. a flood is forecast.
[will i get back home?]
i reflect upon today. what happened to daylight? it was a blue-black bruise of a sky that sheltered me this morning on my way to work and not much has changed in 6 hours, except the rain. only a forty minute aperture of light and a telephone conversation with a friend around midday were a welcome relief from the depressing feeling of such an oppressive contusion. i felt somewhat lighter, like the sky.
but now it is dark again. street lights lead the way home.
i look out the window. rivers flow outside. reflections of car tail lights, street lights and out-dated festive lights colour and bleed into one another in the fast amassing puddles on pavements and breaking surface waters. it is quite beautiful.
a pretty girl in a prefect blazer and Bardot hair sits at the front of the bus with her mother. the girl is incredibly cute, almost like a Manga cartoon. she seems so out of place here, among the gaunt po-faced and embittered ones. i watch as a man in a yellow fluorescent jacket and dirty woollen beanie hat ogles her length of leg, hungrily, like a hyena anxiously waiting for the lionness to let down her guard so he can go in and have his fill on her cub. the mother notices- watches him, stares him down. the girl casts her eyes downwards, coquettishly smiling a wry smile. she knows…
[she would kill you, mate. you do not have the energy for youth’s appetite. she knows. she is playing you. girls learn from a very early age how to manipulate men. she is toying with you. i saw her smile…]
my mind begins to wander and i wonder if the man in the day-glo jacket with dirty hands and dirty mind will go home, have dinner with his wife and kids… maybe watch some TV for a while, few tins of beer… then go to bed, with his stretch-marked wife and fuck her while fantasising of opening up the young prefect with the perfect nymphette body and succulent lips. how would she taste?
yeah. i wonder what goes through some men’s minds sometimes.
i look around and fully appreciate the ugly reality of public transport and how it is the best arena for people-watching. it’s better than television.
[am i the only one that sees this madness?]
i watch the day-glo man. i watch him bite his lip, his eyes fixated on the girl. i watch him toy with his wedding ring. i watch as beads of sweat appear on his top lip and temples.
the bus stops and the young girl and her lionness mother stand up to get off. i watch the day-glo man’s tongue snakes up the young girl’s legs to the hemline of her skirt. [the downside of having an expansive imagination] and i watch the girl wink at him and her mother yank her by the arm before turning to snarl at the man.
i glower at the man. he removes his hat, rubs his face as if attempting to wash away the despair or shame with his big dirty, dry hands and puts his hat back on, giving out a large sigh of resignation, and closes his eyes.
on opening his eyes, he feels the weight of my stare. and the stare of every other passenger on board.
i just wonder if he has a daughter… [yeah.]
the bus stops at Glenrothes bus station where people alight and people board.
a big girl in a small pink shell suit bounces on board and boogies up the aisle to take up the seat behind me. meanwhile, a fat teenage boy with a mop of scarlet and black tousled hair and a fake feathered parrot hops on board, with what must be his grandmother. she is wearing the ubiquitous “rain mate” carrier bag cap.
the two sit in the seats in front of me. they look unperturbed by the weather and the fact that they are completely soaked. drenched.
the parrot looks most pitiful, however. i realise it is a real parrot, but a dead one. quite possibly the worst example of taxidermy i think i have ever seen. its eyes are squint and its beak has worked itself loose, now at a jaunty angle. its balding plumage is soaking and its skin looks decrepit, thin and leathery. but hey! maybe it’s his first effort.
[i hope he does a better job with his Grandmother…]
i look outside. the next stop is mine. i look outside. it’s a bleak night. cold, wet and fucking miserable.
but my little red boots are cheerful!
(c) Kat McDonald 2016
– first ‘bus blog’ of the year… enjoy!
image/concept by Mothmeister