'You know, I'm no good at this, but it's worthwhile to try...'
Looking at him in confusion, I tried to kept that smile on my face, partly because I couldn't understand his English - he swallowed every tail of the consonants.
He was upset to see me confused, then he said:
'You know, you are beautiful, in Italian they say £&$*£^£%£...'
As he had already told me for over ten times in the past fifteen minutes. I didn't know how to respond. On the first round I replied as the text books and my English teachers told me:
But 'thank you' offended him:
'C'mon, you know you are beautiful, what the fuck you thank me for?'
What was I supposed to say then? 'Yes I know'? That would nonetheless be a lie, I never really know, and I tried not to tell lies.
So I chose to just smile and looking at him rather blankly as if I don't understand English again - that is indeed the best strategy I could think of to turn down all sorts of strange foreign men trying to make conversations: the loud football fans, the overly huggy kissy cafe owner, random person making comments on my underwear etc. etc. I have developed a male-phobia over the time. I've tried to avoid talking to them as much as possible. As a result, I don't even ended up having any good male friends. Well, that's not too big a problem.
But this man continued murmuring beside me, eventually it started to make no sense to me at all - I got annoyed, and my mind drifted away. After all, he was just a person happened to sit beside me on the bus. Why he bothered to say:
'Let me take care you. '
'I will take good care of you.'
And the rest I didn't understand, maybe he didn't know what he said either. Somehow I managed to understand one more utterance:
'You know I'm like a normal guy, I go to the pub and get a larger...'
Yes, the rest I didn't understand.
On such an early March night, so cold, everybody had a thick coat on and only involved in their own little worlds. He sat next to me, with only a single layer on, shelvering, nose-running and talking to me. He smelt complicated: it's a blend of alcholic puke deposit (very remote and frozen, seemed to be saved from last month or even more ancient), wet mud, hospital and flesh left unwashed for so long.
This bus journey became a torture. I got impatient and quite angry. Why should he chat to me? Why talking nonesenses? I couldn't wait to get off and be away from him.
But why couldn't I understand?
In principle, I should have talked with him loudly and happily with laughters, digging up as much personal information as I had been curiously concerned:
'My name is John, I had been an average lad as the ones you could see everywhere on the street till I got hooked up with heroin ten years ago, my life got fucked up since then...'
As stereotypical as that.
We then may take a date together, I will buy him a pint of carling to warm him up, looked into his deadly eyes, and then both of us start to cry.
What scared me off?
Rebecca is so old. Her face is neatly folded lines after lines, pale and loose.
Rebecca travels with central line on Saturdays - all the way through West Ruislip to Epping. This route must have been extended, today she thought, it's like travelling across the country. She remembered well that time, when she was 21, she travelled from the south coast - the sunny hilly southern countryside - to somewhere in the north with that newly built railway, it was travelling by a rocket, terrificly fast. It took less time than this journey, she sank into comtemplations. The clock in her head stopped working a while ago, for maybe ten years, maybe twenty years, maybe more. Don't ask Rebecca about time. Time is nonesense for a 92 years old.
The broadcast must have said something, is it Epping yet? Rebecca made an attempt to stand up, she leant against the railing - painted red and solid. The train is trembling, Rebecca was like a fallen leaf, dry and light, she swang and swang with the tempo of the train; but keeping the body balanced is not a problem for a skillful elderly.
What is this young man murmuring about? A well-built business-man looking guy was trying to find out where Rebecca was off to. To let an old woman standing on an unstable train aimlessly seemed quite a dangerous thing to do. He looks tired, poor young chap. I'm off to Epping. So the man led her to sit down again. The train started off when Rebecca tried to settle down in the tricky seat. The power of inertia threw her off down quite easily. That body hit the hard substance of seating, and sank into it, without a slight bouncing back.
The train was gradually getting packed as it approaches to the city centre, but no one sat next to Rebecca. Rebecca doesn't mind at all, she can't be bothered to shout out the kindly words 'please sit down next me', standing up and swinging is not a suffering for them, none is to Rebecca herself.
She is so happy. Rebecca needs no reason to be happy. When the hair covered by snow, face carved by age, and bones dragged down by the gravity, the heart becomes light and fears there goes away with the concept of time.
That Chinese young woman sitting opposite looks confused and sad. She has a long time to realise that life is but a tube journey appreciating flickering landscapes in the sunshine, enduring fear of darkness in the man-made tunnels, and finally getting used to and rid of both so as to achieve the bliss.
Everyone went off at Loughton, three stops before Epping. The carriage is left only Rebecca, there she sits softly and happy, her hair finely pinned, two different shoes worn on feet, her handbag is comparatively new, her eyes are as deep as the Loch Morar.
It's a journey never stops and never ends.