I’m on a packed but characteristically silent train from Croydon to Clapham Junction, standing in the vestibule with a few other people unable to find a seat. One of them, a straggly looking woman, wearing a baggy tracksuit and glasses with lenses that look like they’ve been cut off the bottom of wine bottles and magnify her pupils to the size of conkers, talks at an unnecessarily loud volume into her phone.

Hi Mum, it’s only me. I’m just on a train to Victoria because I’ve arranged to meet Roland. He says he’s really sorry about Monday but he can’t go. Because they’re burying his friend. Hello, Mum, can you hear me? HIS FRIEND. THEY’RE BURYING HIM ON MONDAY.

The conversation, understandably, piques the interest of some of the other passengers. People strain and crane their necks, looking down the aisle to catch a glimpse of the woman, who continues to yell into her phone.

Eh? You know, Roland’s mate, Jim. The one that got killed. I’m just going to meet him at Victoria now. No, Roland! Anyway, I’m just calling to say he can’t go on Monday, Mum, because he’s going to a funeral.

OK, bye.

She hangs up the phone. I look out the window, secretly wishing she was still talking. Then:

Hi Sweetie, I just phoned mum. I told her that you’re sorry about Monday but you can’t go because you’ve got a funeral to attend to. She says don’t worry about it at all, it’s fine. No, no, no, NO Roland, I won’t. We’ve just got engaged, everything’s all right now. Of course I won’t. I’m definitely not going to leave you now, not in this state. I’m here for you thick and thin. Roland… just… wait there. I’m coming to Victoria right now.

The woman hangs up the phone and nonchalantly looks out the window, as if she’s just had the most normal conversation in the world. Then, suddenly, she runs past me, up the aisle and into the next carriage.

I get off at Clapham, traumatised.


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