Waiting for the 42. 9.30am.
I arrived at the bus stop muttering a sort of to-do list to myself. ‘Grange Road, toothbrush, stop off at M’s, get the pdfs up, chase R, flyer copy, email A…’ I found a perch in the shade and sipped on my iced coffee; it was already a baking hot day.
A high, needling voice penetrated my thoughts. I looked up and discovered it was coming from a man in a navy polo shirt and tracksuit bottoms, standing totally erect and facing away from me. He was talking to himself too, quite loudly.
‘And will they take any action? No, of course not, because the world is unfair. The system is weighted against the ordinary person, and people like him – this isn’t to do with race or creed, it’s just a travesty, the authorities aren’t bothered. How would you feel if it were you? But that’s just it because people don’t stop to think, they’re all brainwashed…’
I took a closer look at the man. He had combed his hair but not washed it in a while. He had a reused plastic bag full of newspapers by his feet, and wore fairly smart shoes. He was staring straight out in front of him, eyes wide open, and was speaking as if he were addressing a crowd but was clearly alone. I looked around at the other people at the bus stop. A couple of women directly behind the man were sharing a silent laugh at his expense. They were facing the same way as him, as were the people behind them: it suddenly seemed to me that they, all together, formed a sort of military unit or performance troupe with this proud but possibly unhinged man at their head. I began to feel that, sitting off to one side, I was somehow out of line.
A woman ran past us, shouting to herself about a bus that hadn’t stopped for her.
As her shouts receded, the doors of the nearby Coop supermarket slid open to reveal another woman, standing in the food-to-go aisle and clutching a sandwich high in the air. ‘They’ve all got mayo in!’ she wailed, to herself. The doors slid shut again, like theatre curtains.
‘… There’s no justice in the world,’ said the man.