Wednesday, 10 May 2006

Free ride (part 1)

7 or 8 months ago

I was waiting for the number 42 at the bottom of Copley Hill at the bus stop next to ‘The Crown’. In more prosperous times the inhabitants of the near by Clyde Tower Blocks would have whetted their thirsts in 'The Crown' but on this Saturday morning the hallways of Clyde Court and Clyde Grange stank of urine, the windows of ‘The Crown’ were boarded up and the ‘Darts and Dominoes’ plaque hung from the wall by one screw.

I was not alone.

Her hair had been dyed so frequently that any length had snapped off, leaving her with an uneven, boyish ‘do’ that was bald in patches and had been touched up with pink. The rest of her was brittle too. She was scrawny and had bad posture. When she turned to face me I was surprised by the dryness of her skin, her cracked lips, decayed teeth and the age of her. Bobbing up and down on the spot, anxious for the bus and more, she did not have the composure you would expect from someone of her years. Her tiny frame and choice of clothing were also misleading. Here Mutton made a poor attempt at dressing as Lamb in a cheap crop t - shirt and leggings.

A few others joined us in the bus queue. The number 16 surfaced on the horizon. The bobbing up and down became more frantic. The bus pulled up, doors opened, people started to get on.

Head bowed my Muse flashed a ticket at the Driver as she boarded.

‘Get back ‘ere with that love’

The Driver knew what a new travel ticket looked like and hers was dog eared and yellowing.

‘Yer ticket’s out of date, pay, or get off’

My Muse got off the bus and made her way past the queue.

‘Can anyone lend us a pound?’

The queue shrugged their shoulders, or pulled their hands out of their pockets indicating skintness, or just ignored her.

I stood by and watched as she graciously accepted their rejection.

The queue filed onto the bus. The last person was standing in front of the Driver’s compartment scrabbling in her purse for change. The doors were still open.

My Muse, whincing slightly, glanced up and down the road hoping to find someone new to ‘tap a pound off’ before the bus departed.

I pulled out my purse, found a pound coin and handed it to her, quick as a flash.

‘Thank you.’

Before she scuttled off we made eye contact.

For a split second I saw right into the depths of a kind, gentle soul.

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