12. 10.30am. Top deck, halfway down on the right.
I was sitting with my laptop atop my lap, trying to write a book review en route to an east London-based radio show, when three nineteen-year-old boys arrived on the top deck. They arranged themselves around me and one of them began to hold forth on the favourite subject of boys their age: girls. I’m ashamed to say I wrapped up my review pretty quickly so I could listen in to the sermon. Here’s roughly how it went.
‘Girls are like that. They just want you to think about them. And if you start thinking about her, before you know it you’ll like her. And then it’ll go deeper, and you’ll end up getting hurt. Girls are evil and they don’t even know it.
‘The way I’m seeing it, the arseholes are getting all the nice girls and the nice guys are left with shit. Well, not always shit, but you know. The nice guys deserve it. The thing is, girls are bullies. They’ll do anything to bring his confidence down. Either you have the power or they do. You know what I’m saying.
‘The thing is, girls just know how to tell you everything you’re doing wrong but not what you’re doing right. Like – what was it she said? Oh yeah, “you dress like a kid”, and shit like that. If they tried that shit on the arsehole guy he’d just tell her to fuck off, but the nice guy takes it, and gets beaten down and beaten down. They either end up turning gay – and looking all sharp and shit so now the girls want them but can’t have them – or they isolate themselves. The girls can’t help it. It’s programmed. They don’t know the power they have but they know how to defend it. Because either you have it or they have it.’
One of the other boys cut in at this point. ‘Do you have genuine experience of this yourself?’ The third boy leaned in, eager for the answer.
‘Bruv, I don’t what there is I haven’t had experience in. Now it don’t affect me though because I’m sorting myself out. I’m taking time. You learn from your mistakes –’
‘I feel like I’ve made so many mistakes already,’ said Boy Number 2, shaking his head mournfully.
‘Sooner or later you’ll be flawless bruv. I’m telling you. That’s why I go running every day. Not for them! I’m chasing the future me, that’s how I see it. For real. I’m chasing the future me.’
A philosophical long-distance runner, this kid.