Travel talk

imagesA man and a woman at Hackney Central rail station. He skips a few stairs and she catches up with him, hooks her arm over his shoulder, lolls there, while telling him a story. She walks with a kind of swagger, with more attitude; more forced masculinity than her companion. They sit next to each other on the bench and every other word is fuck. Fucking this, Fucking that. She is louder than he is, her language more floral. She is American, dressed in black, from head to toe, straight-legged jeans, cut neatly to her slender legs, high-heeled boots with studs around the heels. Her hair is pale peroxide.

‘New York airport has a fucking terrible lounge,’ she sneers. ‘They’re all fucking terrible. And the long-haul flights, I’ve done them all. Melbourne to New York, LA to Chicago. You know what I do when I’m on the plane? I fucking sleep. I put my feet up and I close my fucking eyes and I sleep.’

Her companion has a softer voice than hers, and says that he finds it hard to sleep on the plane.

‘No, no, no,’ she says. ‘There’s nothing else to do. I ignore the stewardess when she comes round with my food. I’d put a fucking sticker on my head if I could saying, Don’t Disturb Me.’

He finds this funny.

They’re silent for a time and he sits quite happily beside her, his arms crossed over his chest, his legs straight out in front. But she gets onto her phone, scrolls through some pictures, talks about a friend. ‘Look at this,’ she says, showing him. ‘You think she’s hot? What’s so hot about that? The girl needs a fucking boob job.’

As I watch and listen I feel sorry for her desperate need to impress, to give off so much attitude. I wonder what they’re like at home, when things are quiet and slow, whether they share any kind of intimacy, whether she lets herself go.

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