In the game

137. 10pm. Top deck, on the left, near the front.

The man next to me was wearing a smart black coat and a slick haircut. His leather laptop bag was wedged between us. He was flicking through news stories on a smartphone with the thumb of his right hand while holding a BlackBerry to his ear with his left hand. He was bantering with what I guessed was a male friend.

‘Right. Look up to the row of balconies…

‘Where are you looking, you fool?

‘Yes you’re there! You’re looking at the end of the street, right?

‘Look up! It’s the third window along – is the light on?

‘OK good.

‘No, it’s not my room, it’s Kyle’s…’

He gave me a few moments to try to work out why on earth his friend was searching for Kyle’s room (on some street somewhere else in Clapham) while he deftly switched over on his smartphone from the news stories to a football game app.

‘Yup, so… are you going to order me a drink? I’ll be there in seven minutes.

‘Ha. Can you order me a lager that’s as close to 4% as possible? I think they do an Amstell in there.

‘Shut your mouth!’ His eyes were twinkling. ‘If you do I’ll throw it in your face.’

There’s something peculiarly loving about the way men verbally abuse their friends. The players in the miniature football game were standing around waiting for an instruction.

‘Look, I’ve had more drinks since you’ve been away than… I just have to rein it in if I’m going to get to bed before midnight.

‘Well it doesn’t matter anyway.’

He smiled warmly. ‘I may have had a cigarette. I’ll see you in a minute.’

He let in a goal, switched off the app and got off the bus at Clapham Junction.

I did slightly wonder whether this was an illicit rendezvous that Kyle was not supposed to know about. So I’ve changed his name, I hope that’s OK.

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