So I’m on the 58, the one that swings down the Lea Valley and across East London.  We’re going past the Boleyn pub, at the lights, waiting for the filter so we can turn the corner.  Some guy, Asian, maybe late teens, starts pressing the ringer.  Over and over, not in a pattern, not musically, just over and over, in intermittent bursts.  I turn to get a look at him, my headphones up, I can just about hear the ringer over the Senns.  He’s dead eyed, not smiling, this isn’t even something to laugh about.  He’s just pressing it, over and over, sitting, staring, blankly ahead.  The people he is with half have their hoodies up, half down.  The 58 stops up near  Sam’s, the fried chicken place, and they pile out, talking, massing, in their group.  I think of the guy, nearly grown up, an education (free), all the Maths, the English, the sciences.  Centuries of knowledge at his fingertips.  The hours spent on him, the opportunities.  I think of all that he’s had the chance to learn and about how he’s sitting here, on a rainy Spring evening, balmy outside, ringing a bell over and over so that the other passengers are set on edge, so that the driver’s already mundane job gets worse, all for what?  He’s not even smiling, this isn’t a joke.  It’s to be cool, it’s a statement, it’s look at me.  Look over at me, aren’t I something different?  I think of the human race.  It’s the start of an anecdote: there’s this guy, right, just sat there, he was pressing a ringer, over and over, but there’s no punchline and I feel profoundly sad and depressed, maybe for him, maybe for us all, as I head out to the pelican crossing by the Blockbuster and put my umbrella down so I can jog across the road before the lights change —

Published by gurdeepmattu

I’m an author and publisher. I live and work in London and am the author of “Sons and Fascination” (2011, Paperbooks). It's available here: http://amzn.to/eaTVCx

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