Things What I Learnt on the Bus

“Do you mind if I put my hands there?”

Oh God. I’ve just sat down on the bus and someone is talking to me. I look round at the woman behind, who is leaning forward holding the back of the seat next to me.

“I like putting my hands on the seat in front. Lots of people don’t like it.”

Her face is inches from mine. There’s a massive yellow spot between her eyebrows that I’ll spend the rest of the journey trying not to look at.

“I’ve got autism.” she explains.

“That’s ok,” I say, relaxing, “I work with lots of people who have Aspergers and Autism.”

“People don’t understand. It’s like if I say ‘I don’t like’-” she looks me up and down, considering. Oh God, which flaw is she going to pick out? “Like if I say, ‘I don’t like bobblehats, so I don’t like you!'”


“But I don’t mean it though, I was just saying it.”

“That’s ok.”

“I always carry my bag with me, to stop people sitting next to me. If they touch my bag, it’s like they’re touching me.”

She does have a very large bag.

Just then, a woman gets on and sits next to the bag.

“Do you mind not touching my bag!” she order the woman, “I don’t like people touching my bag.”

A townie student turns round and grins.

“No, that’s ok,” says the woman.

I take this opportunity to get my book out. I’m reading Orlando by Virginia Woolf. The only book of her’s I can stand to read more than a page of. Even so, it’s taken me a week to read 20 pages.

She leans over again. “People always say stuff about me, I’m fed up of it. What do you think?”

“I think that’s very rude of them,” I say.

A few minutes later, she starts to get off.

“I don’t want anyone touching me,” she warns as she stands up, “move out of the way! Go on, move!”

Giggly female students start to act up.

She swings round to face them.

“What did you say? Don’t talk about me behind my back!”

We’re all getting off now.

“You shouldn’t talk to her like that,” says an angry chav in a tracksuit as the girls file past. “My brother’s like her and you shouldn’t mess with them.”

The girls giggle. “What a heroin addict too?”

“You fucking rich bitches, I hate the way you posh bitches treat people. Jog on!”

They pile, giggling, off the bus.

It’s not hard to pick a side. University students are supposed to be more tolerant and sensitive than their uneducated counterparts. They’re not. They’re often worse.

Identity Crisis #3,044

Sunday 27th

It’s the Great British Bird Count this weekend. Look out your window for an hour and write down all the species that you see.
I ring my grandad and tell him about it because he’s got so much wildlife it makes me weep.

“There’s only about 4 goldfinches that come now”, he tells me, “not the usual 10. And the long tailed tits are away at the moment.”

That only leaves the great tits, bluetits, greenfinches, jays, blackbirds and dunnocks then.

I sit at my study window for an hour. A crow flies over the house. Two pigeons flop into next door’s tree.

That’s it.

I’ve had it with birds.

Monday 28th

Lisa accidentally put her foot through the floorboard in her living room. She lowered a steel ruler into the gap, gasping as the inches mounted up. All in all, there’s a three foot cavity under there.

“Just the right size for a monster,” she shudders.
‘Especially a gnashing, slithering legless torso,’ I want to add, but she’d be back living in our dog bed if I did.

When I get there, her and Esther are using it as a wishing well, clamping their eyes shut as they toss pennies into the void.

Tuesday 29th

I’ve booked a Man-date with George in the Manhattan Coffee House on Ecclesall Road. Last week, I got a bit confused and poured milk in my peach tea and it curdled but I drank it anyway out of sheer embarrassment. I’m playing it safe this time and having a hot chocolate.

“Let’s go and watch a film soon,” George says, “The Showroom do a deal where you have a meal and a glass of wine for 2 and see a film for £20.” “Yes, lets,” I say, as we sit on out little table sharing a slice of cake and looking for all the world like we’re on a date.

"I'm man enough to say it. I love you, man"

“I’m man enough to say it. I love you, man”

About once a year, I have a funny turn and shave all my facial hair off. Without fail, every time I do, I go into mild shock.
Today, after my man-date, it’s time to do it again. Loads of men are clean shaven, I tell myself, why not me?
For 2 seconds after I’ve done it, I seem to look ok. But then the realization dawns, that it is very far from ok and I have to go on a mirror tour of the house to confirm it. Dear God, I am a freak.

Wednesday 30th

I’m going through the stages of grief about my beard. Unfortunately, there’s no denying it, so I crack on with anger and resentment and self pity.

I start a manifesto about The Tyranny of Beards.

“For too long it has been them wearing us,” I write, “Once established, like parasites they erase all memory of the naked face. They demand absolute obedience and are only banished on pain of losing your very self.”

Thursday 31st

I’ve realized that the only way to make my mouth look normal is to keep it moving. I’m chain-chewing gum and licking my lips a lot.

I bump into an exam invigilator at work. He tells me the latest craze among students is to write answers on the food they’re allowed to take into the exam and then eat the evidence before they get caught. As we chat, I over-exaggerate my mouth movements a bit to much when I speak, so he makes his excuses and leaves.

Alrighty then.

Friday 1st Feb

It’s my day off. I’m having a lovely lie in, but there’s a knock at the door, so I leap out of bed and pull my trousers on. For some reason I have taken to wearing a dingy white vest that my mum bought me when I was a teenager. It’s not a good look.
It’s the gas inspector man, who no-one told us was coming. The house is a tip. There’s half eaten food on the table, and as he walks in, I notice my glittery 80s bellboy outfit (seemed like a good buy at the time), lying next to the washing machine waiting to be washed.
I figure the best thing to do is leave him to do his thing, so I go upstairs in houseshame (the opp of housepride). As I get back in bed, I tell Esther about the mess.

‘At least the living room is clean and normal,’ I say.
We both sit bolt upright;
“Oh Christ, the Christmas tree!”

It’s Feb the 1st and there’s a ginormous tree in there still.
I start to laugh hysterically while Esther hisses at me to be quiet.
The gas man shouts up to me so I go downstairs.

“I’m working from home today,” I tell him, trying to explain why I’m here and that I’m not a lazy student.

Then I notice the photos of me on the wall from my feminist performance artist phase. There’s a naked one of me as Marilyn Monroe’s centrefold, and lots of me in wigs and makeup. Working from home takes on a different hue.

I decide to change tack. Suddenly, an idea comes to me, how to make the weirdness into a positive experience.
“I don’t spose you get rid of Christmas tress do you?”

He looks blankly at me. It’s a bad idea.
“Funny you should say that,” he adds, “my mate does. Leave it outside and I’ll get him to take it.”
Result! I manhandle it through the door, but it gets hooked on the kitchen doorframe and he has to help me, “to me,” “to you,” we go until finally it’s out.

I’m normal goddammit!