Dialogue On A Train or Shoplifters Of The World Unite
It was as the train pulled into the station that I became aware of them. As I approached the end of the platform a male voice, nasal and northern, called out, “Hey, mate, does this train go Rochdale?”
The train was destined for Leeds, but it did indeed call at Rochdale, a few stops down the line. The lad that was asking looked like he was in his early twenties, thin, hooded and probably on something. A girl sat hunched against him, head on his shoulder, clutching a drawstring bag as she gazed blankly at me.
I nodded in reply to his question and he clicked his fingers. “Buzzin‘!”
I got onto the train, taking a seat and a book from my shoulder bag with an optimistic intention to read throughout my journey. The young couple took the seat in front of me. Or rather, she did, he remained stood in the aisle as she started to ferret around in the bag. He leant over to see the contents she spread across the table, pulling some of them towards him.
“Let’s divvy it up, babe,” he suggested.
“Can I take some of those ankle socks with me?” she asked.
“Here,” he said, no doubt divvying up the socks. I was wondering why they’d be sharing ankle socks. I couldn’t picture him wearing any.
“Here’s me Gucci baby,” she said. “The box is well nice innit? Got me fake tan. You can put that on for me later.”
A woman carrying hand luggage approached the lad from behind. Suddenly aware of her presence he spun around. “Oh soz darlin‘” he moved out of her way, as the itemised list from his beau kept coming:
“Here” she said, “you take the Ann Summers.”
“And don’t forget your fags. What time do we leave?” she asked, looking through the window as though only just aware we were still in the station.
“What’s it fuckin’ matter?” he replied. “We’ll get there. I’m gonna have a smoke. Stop drinkin‘.”
I wondered if he meant that when he got to Rochdale he was going to have a smoke and stop drinking. Or was he covertly drinking now? (Yes, by now I’d given up trying to read as this dialogue went on in front of me.) But then he hopped through the open door onto the platform, turning his back against the breeze as he lit a cigarette. His life-changing rejection of alcohol was perhaps a spontaneous add on, past-present-future somehow morphing into one continuous muddle of conversation.
In his absence the girl went quiet, sighing deeply. I considered my book again. Would it be worth starting a chapter? I glanced up at the time on the electronic notice board on the platform just as 14.47 changed to 14.48-the time of our departure.
The lad, cutting it fine, flicked the cigarette away and jumped back on the train, the doors closing behind him. He entered the carriage just as the train began to move. “Babe-wake up! We’re goin’ to Rochdale!”
Off we moved into hell.