Standing at the side of the ring road for years and years, waiting for buses that are late, on time, that never come.
Huddled in a freezing bus shelter or standing in the sun, standing in the dark, standing in the rain, waiting and waiting for a fucking bastard bus and it’s cunting fucking driver in a perspex fortress, a cunting fucking driver who is ever ready to sneer at that tenner or that handful of coppers, a cunting fucking King Turd of Shit Mountain for eight hours behind the wheel, while I stand at the side off the ring road, waiting for buses, waiting for death.
A lot of my early twenties are spent waiting for buses. Waiting to go to work, waiting to get away from work, waiting to go to the pub, waiting to get home from the pub. Margaret Thatcher apparently cracked some quip or other about users of public transport being failures, and seeing my fellow travellers on the Number 8 peasant express that orbits Leeds on the ring road between the years of our Lord 1989 and 1995, I’m reluctantly inclined to agree with the milk thieving witch.
Staring up a road for a bus that isn’t coming makes me feel like a failure.
Standing on my own is bad enough but more often than not I have to stand with Vic Sytex.
Vic is a dirty cunt, one of the original great unwashed and a thick miasma of body odour surrounds him. He crunches cough sweets in between Lambert & Butler fags, creating a sickening soup of menthol, nicotine and armpits. His skin is leathery. Preserved.
You want to know what Vic Sytex looks like?
Tollund Man is a bloke who’d been laying in a Danish peat bog for two and a half thousand years or so, minding his own business, before archaeologists dig him up in a remarkable state of preservation.
I’d say Tollund Man probably contributed more to humanity in his time under the earth than Vic Sytex has done in the fifty years he’s spent wandering over it.
It’s bizarre how thousands of years squashed under a field in Denmark and spending a good thirty five years drinking Tetley’s and smoking fags while staring at a telly in the corner of a pub in West Yorkshire has given the two blokes a surprisingly similar complexion. Scientists should look into it.
Now don’t get me wrong. I like slacking off as much as the next man, but it’s Vic’s whole approach to life that pisses me off. He’s a parasite. He gets me to do his work for him because he can’t be arsed. He stinks to high heaven because he can’t be arsed washing. He goes to the pub because it’s easier than being anywhere else and any man who can make a trip to the pub such a joyless affair is no friend of mine.
Vic Sytex waits for buses because it’s the easiest option, the laziest option.
I wait for buses with him and quietly die inside.
When a bus finally arrives Vic Sytex is invariably half way through a fag. Every time. He squints up the road, sees the bus, shrugs, then docks his fag with his thumb. Now, imagine putting out a fag with your thumb at least twice a day, call it a dozen times a day, actually, because he always fucks off outside the factory for half a fag about twenty times a day.
Now imagine what that thumb looks like.
A blackened, stinking stump. The tip is a hard, fire proof callous embedded with ash, the nail a heat shattered wreck. He squashes the fag flat, knocking off the coal, then tucks the docker behind a leathery ear for later.
Then we get on the bus.
Vic Sytex always lets me on first, the gent. I find a seat and he squashes on next to me, crushing me against the sweaty, condensation-streaked window.
He offers me a menthol sweet, usually a Halls or Tunes, pushing one out of the packet at me with THAT thumb.
I always decline.
He always shrugs.
He sticks the sweet in his mouth and starts to crunch.
All I can smell is the docked fag, menthol and the pork reek of his body.
I sit in quite despair and watch shards of menthol sweet fly from his open mouth onto the leg of my jeans where they dissolve, leaving small, sticky pink flecks, a constant reminder of Vic Sytex.
Half an hour later it’s Vic’s stop. He hauls himself up, presses the button with THAT thumb and says, “S’long.”
And he’s gone.
I sweep off the bits of sweet from my leg and breath through my mouth to avoid the lingering reek.
Five days a week of this.
And I’m stood at the bus stop watching the traffic, waiting for a bus that won’t come and the weather is warm though it looks like rain and the air tastes of fumes and a blue flat bed transit has driven past with four blokes in torn checked shirts in the cab and they’ve screamed BUMMERS at Vic and me and thrown a half eaten apple at us which I dodge and which hits Vic squarely on the side of his head, filling his big leathery ear with half eaten apple and which he barely seems to notice.
Vic calmly picks apple from his ear and pulls on his fag and says, “Our lass is finishin’ early today. She might swing by an’ give us a lift.”
I feel relieved. No pork smell, no docker, no sticky menthol legs. I can read the book I’ve got in my bag and have the whole seat to myself.
I say, “Nice one.”
A few minutes later a Ford Fiesta pulls up at the bus stop. Vic Docks his fag, sticks it behind a leathery, apple-filled ear and opens the car door. He pushes the passenger seat forward and struggles into the back. He pulls the seat into place.
I’m mesmerized. Vic is sat in the back, just like he would if it was a taxi.
His baggy, leathery, bog-preserved face presses between the head rest and the door pillar.
He says, “Gerrin then.”
I say, “What?”
He says, “Gerrin car. We’ll give yer a lift.”
A woman leans over from the driver’s seat. She isn’t what I expect. She’s around fifty, wearing an office suit. Her hair is short, colored red with highlights, a good few quidsworth at any local salon. She is smiling and friendly, rolling her eyes at Vic as though to suggest he is a cross she must bear. Twenty years ago she’d have turned heads but twenty years of Vic have taken their toll. There is a bone tired weariness about her.
She says, “Hop in, love. we’ll give you a lift.”
I don’t want a lift. I want to read my book on the bus but Vic’s wife seems a kind sort and to say no would be rude.
I get in the car.
I struggle to make leg room as there is a full bin liner in the foot well, but I shuffle it around and manage to get in. I slam the door. Put on the seat belt.
Buzzing down the ring road with the smell of Vic’s wife’s perfume is far better than dockers and menthol and pork, and I’ve saved a couple on quid bus fair. I’m not complaining.
Vic leans in from the back. “Luci, this is the missus, Leslie.”
I say, “Hello Leslie, pleased to meet you.”
She says, “Likewise, Luci.” She reaches a hand off the steering wheel and shakes mine, smiling across at me. She has red nail varnish. Her thumb is not a blackened stump.
Leslie says to me, “Have you got enough leg room there, Luci? You’re a very tall lad. I didn’t think you’d be able to get in this little car!”
I say, “I’m fine, Leslie, thanks. I just didn’t want to break anything in this bag.”
I shuffle the bin liner carefully to one side a bit more. The contents clatter about.
She says, “Oh, those! Sorry about that. They’re Vic’s. Just pass them back to him, Luci. There’s room back there.”
I pick up the bag but it falls open. A VHS cassette lands in my lap. On the label, written in felt pen, it says, COCK WHORES.
I put the cassette back in the bag and heave it over the seat to Vic in the back. There must be about fifty tapes in there.
Vic laughs. “Hur hur. Seen that one have you, Luci?”
I say, “No.”
Leslie is tutting and frowning. “I’m really sorry about that, Luci. Those are Vic’s, the dirty get. Horrible. I can’t stand that sort of thing, personally. Disgusting.”
The Fiesta changes lanes, overtaking slower traffic. Leslie slips the gear stick into third.
Vic is laughing in the back like a reeking troll. “Fuck off! You like them films better than me! You fuckin’ love ‘em an’ don’t you deny it!”
Leslie pats her hair do and smiles. “Oh, give over Vic! I might have had a glance at one or two, but that’s all!”
We drive in silence for a bit, then Leslie says, “What about you, Luci? Do you sometimes like to watch?”
I say, “Mind if I open a window?”
Fresh air mixed with a hint of diesel blows in. We’re about half way to my house, maybe fifteen minutes away. I wonder if you can die by jumping from a moving car and reckon it wouldn’t be pretty. I start looking out for traffic lights.
Vic pipes up from the back. “I reckon Luci watches stuff like that all the time, Love. Young lad like ‘im? I reckon he can’t get enough!”
Leslie says, “Is that true, Luci? Can’t you get enough.”
I look out the window and say, “I dunno about that.”
I remember a conversation we’d had about sex a few months ago at work. One of the office lasses had come through in a very short skirt and filed some forms in a low cupboard. We’d all watched her bending over, then we noticed her looking in the reflection in a polished metal plate. She was watching us, watching her. She walked out smiling. As soon as she was out of earshot the typical factory comments flew about.
“I’d love to fuck her.”
“I reckon she’d let us.”
“All of us?”
“Not you you ugly twat!”
“Hur hur hur.”
The usual factory crap. But Vic Sytex just shrugged.
He said, “I couldn’t be bothered. I’d rather have a good shit or a decent dinner.”
A good shit or a decent dinner.
Leslie had asked me if I couldn’t get enough.
It suddenly struck me that Leslie wasn’t getting enough.
I wondered if Leslie was getting any at all.
We passed a parade of shops and a DIY store, then onto a road that I considered to be the long way home, a roundabout route.
I didn’t say anything.
Suddenly a black rectangle appeared before me. It came into focus. Another cassette. This one was called ‘HORNY HOUSEWIVES vol 7’.
I immediately wondered what had happened to volumes 1 to 6.
Vic breathed in my ear, “You seen this one, Luci?”
I said, “No.”
He dropped it in my lap. “You can ‘ave it. Tell us what you think when you seen it.”
Oh fucking Hell.
Leslie said, “Yes, you have a watch. Tell us what you think.”
I said, “I’ll do that.”
Vic was rummaging in the bag. “How about FUCK HUNGRY FIFTY YEAR OLDS? You seen that one?”
I’m looking straight ahead. “Not seen it. Sorry.”
“MAN HUNGRY MATURES?”
“Not familiar with it, Vic.”
“No, I… actually I have seen that one. It’s really good, and the theme music is by Simon and…”
“No, this is THE GRADUATE TWO – MRS ROBINSON TAKES THEM ALL ON.”
I say, “I’ve only see the first film. Sorry.”
Leslie says, “I prefer the first film too.”
I look at her. She is smiling. She changes gear again and leaves her hand on the stick. She caresses it.
Vic calls from the back, “Y’daft cow, love! You’ve taken the route that goes to our house. Luci lives back the other way!”
Leslie laughs. A high, tinkling laugh. She moves her hand around the top of the gear stick in a circular motion. I feel a bit weird.
I say, “I don’t mind walking. It’s only half a mile.”
She says, “Why not come in for coffee?”
I say, “I can’t drink coffee. It messes with my digestion.”
She says, “Why not come in for something else then?”
Vic says, “Aye. Come in for summat else.”
I say, “What like?”
Leslie says, “What do you want?”
Vic says, “You can ‘ave owt you want.”
“Leslie says, “Anything at all. You name it, we’ve got it.”
She pulls the car up at the kerb and turns off the engine. The car is suddenly very quiet. I can hear Vic breathing heavily in the back and he’s doing something back there, I don’t know what.
Leslie is looking at me. Then she looks at my lap. I follow her gaze. HORNY HOUSEWIVES vol 7 rests there.
Leslie raises an eyebrow and licks her lips.
I say, “I’m off home.”
I get out of the car and slam the door.
I can hear a tussle in the car and voices raised in protest, the beep of a car horn as someone tries to get a seatbelt off too quickly, but then I’m round the corner and gone.
I realise I’m still holding HORNY HOUSEWIVES vol 7. I wonder who stars in it. I really am not bothered to find out so I chuck it in a bush.
I wonder how the fuck I’m going to face Vic on the bus from now on. I wonder if his wife is going to keep offering me a lift until I fuck her while Vic wanks in the corner with FUCK HUNGRY FIFTY YEAR OLDS playing on the telly.
On the high street there’s a car parts shop and it’s got a sale on. There are a row of bikes in the window.
They are cheaply made but look fairly solid.
I have a bit of a think.
I won’t have to wait for buses.
I won’t have to get hit by apples.
I won’t have to pay bus fare.
I won’t have to stand with Vic, smelling his awful body.
I won’t have to fuck his wife.
So I go into the shop.
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