My favourite time of the day to travel on Sheffield’s glorious buses is around 2pm in the groggy lull between lunch and school run. On this particular occasion I was roused from my torpor by the sing-songy voices of two women who chatted in the finest Queens English behind me:
“I’m bored” a boy moans loudly.
“Treat every moment with the utmost sincerity” comes the reply, uttered with enough volume and flounce to filter down into the handful of grimy ears on the bus.
“One tries to be sincere…” muses the mother’s bff wistfully.
“Yes, but occasionally one forgets…” she entreats
I twist my head involuntarily to see the faces that spawned this rancid pomposity. Largely unremarkable, both women are noticeable only for their pert posture and earnest eye contact. Buoyed by starched cotton and principles, they manage not to slump into their seats like the rest of us. As they leave the bus, I get a whiff of something I’ve not smelt for a long time- cleanliness.
"This is what I found when I Googled "utmost sincerity""
My day at work continues this exercise in diversity. I overhear a conversation between an earnest Mentor and a mole-like Autistic boy with a voice like the post-op transexual taxi driver on League of Gentlemen:
“I want to change courses. I’d like to do Criminology and that”
“Oh yes? And why is that then?”
“Well, I like Midsomer Murders. And I like CSI”
“Oh really?” (The Mentor is desperately thinking of how to inject some reality into this dream. I’m guessing mainly so that he don’t laugh in his face).
“And I’m interested in crime like murder and rape”
Other students are starting to look round at them now. The Mentor makes a last ditch attempt to steer the convo away from inadvertant pronouncements of megalomania. After a silence, they talk about the weather and everyone goes go back to their work.
When I have a moment at work, instead of eating or drinking, I log onto my newest obsession, Facebook Scrabble. I have found it the only anaesthetic that completely blocks out my bad thoughts. The simple task of shoehorning letters into squares acts like a blanket muffling everything around me. I have started to dream about it. Last night I woke up around 5am to the sound of a drunk girl on her mobile somewhere in the streets below.
“It’s a dead end. Listen Amy, this is not the time to be having this conversation. Shit, it’s another dead end”
Eventually she found the right way and disappeared from hearing. I remember now that I was dreaming in white plastic letter blocks. I was overjoyed when I realised that I had a really good word score when I used Vanessa from Eastenders‘ real name- in my dream it was CROZIER or LUCKIER or something. Oh lord, what am I becoming?
I am disturbed from finding the answer to this by the sound of the cat in rictus, telescoping her chubby body in and out to make herself barf. After two or three loud hiccuping burps, there’s the sound of a fat chav gobbing- it’s out, and I lie there thinking ‘oh god, any minute now it’s going to stink’. Because I still can’t be arsed to move, I sniff the air tentatively every three seconds until I catch a whiff of something. Before I know it, the light’s on and I am upright with toilet roll in hand, searching the floor.
For such massive upheaval, there are only two tiny patches of chunder. As I crouch over them, the smell hits me. I realise now that shit doesn’t just become a stinking thing upon exit through the anus, it wallows for hours in the mucus of the stomach, fomenting and brewing (“a hard poo’s a-brewing” as Bob Dylan sang). What I am picking up is young shit, as yet unformed by the piping bag of the sphincter. Retching, I throw the heavy tissue clumps into the toilet and flush with vigour.
Now for some sex. Esther still hasn’t woken up despite all this, but now I’m wide awake. As I flop down, my hand somehow ends up on the upper reaches of her pubes, accessible because she has had to cut the elastic band off all of her knickers to let her swelling cake-filled belly fall out. It turns out I am a feeder. Normally though, the feeder is thin because all they want is to indulge their ballooning partner. Think Jack Sprat. With me though, I stave off my guilt about perpetual snacking by getting Esther to eat the same as me. This also serves a second purpose: I don’t have to decide for myself what to eat- whatever she allows me to give her must be ok for me.
As I remember the sick, my sex part shrinks. I may be sick, but I am not turned on by it. As I listen to strangulated cries of drunken men singing, I release a series of absurd cartoon farts. They are the best kind, that sound ridiculous yet strangely don’t smell. Esther chuckles in her sleep, then wakes, and we tuck into the unwanted remainders of a Tesco Classic Chocolate Selection (reduced from £6 to £3, effectively duping us into believing it is more than a cheap version of Roses). What is left in the expanse of the disappointingly single-layered box seems like a feast at this time of night:
2x milk choc turkish delights,
2x orange cremes,
and 2x plain chocolate toffee (my personal hatred is reserved for these teeth-destroying rocks of pain, but I eat them anyway with a grimace).
Esther turns the TV on and flicks between BBC News and Sky News, watching the same 2 articles (death of Anwar al-Awlaki; Jacko trial) reported different ways: while Sky is all out sensation, the BBC is deadly serious, although they seem to be loosening their impartiality to compete. What you end up with is sexy newsreaders with straight faces.
"Doctor, Doctor, there's a child in my bed!" "Don't worry, you're just having a little stroke"
Dr Conrad Murray‘s face is undergoing a procedure on TV- mummification. As more and more damning revelations stream out live across the world, his face is lengthening and hardening into an Easter Island grimace of hopelessness. What surprises me about all of this is how most of the court time is spent in awkward silences, stutters and paper shuffling. This isn’t like the movies, though the accents help with the illusion. When I got Sky TV it was because I thought it was the ultimate in voyeur TV: Courts, houses and legs would all be opened up for my delectation. But it seems that the British version is still uptight about most of these. Would Court TV work over here? Would we really want to see a succession of scrawny boy racers and benefits scammers being chastised in bloodless English?
I’m sitting on the toilet now, and I hear Lisa and Dom come in downstairs. This usually has the effect of making me instantly grumpy- some sort of Pavlovian response to a stimuli that I can’t even remember. Something to do with being an only child, Esther would say. “No’, I tell myself, ‘I won’t give in to the grump’. A ridiculous jingle comes into my head;
“Challenge each emo-shun”
it goes, sung in the hyper-sedated voices of a chorus of American life gurus. As I descend the stairs, I sing it over and over in my head. I enter the kitchen, closed off to prevent Devo from destroying the house. So far so good. As I say hello to Lisa, who has stolen my seat (keep calm), I notice that she has ‘re-appropriated’ one my favourite of Esther’s tshirts. I’m starting to lose it now. Rage or depression is never far from my door.
Instead of letting the fuckers in, I sit down and turn Scrabble on.