Hello!

Waiting for the 176. 9.30pm.

I was standing in the rain, waiting for my bus. It was dark, as it always seems to be at the moment when I travel home. My coat was bundled as tightly as possible around my body. The air was frigid.

A middle-aged woman heaved some plastic bags down next to me. They were stuffed with assorted pieces of paper, food packets and old magazines – a copy of a 2001 Hello! was poking out of the top of the nearest bag. The woman had on a leopard-print furry hat and a leopard-print scarf. Neither looked new. She started speaking to herself in a low mumble.

‘I don’t want to… I’m done in… I just want… I’m not doing… All I ask is…’ Not all of the words were audible, but something about the undulating rhythm of her speech, the slump of her shoulders and the rustling of her bags in the icy wind made it seem that she was somehow communicating all the woes of modern womankind.

I inched closer to the woman to hear her more clearly, and was slapped in the face by a ripe, fermenting smell. Alcohol was seeping out of her pores.

It’s hard to keep going sometimes.

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