Most mornings on my way to work, nothing remarkable happens. There is no conversation, no drama. Most people are just in their moody morning mood, or are half-asleep.
As I got ready to put my earphones on, I heard a boy talking on the phone next to me. A nice northern accent, I thought to myself. I’m going to miss hearing this when I leave, so I better listen to his conversation.
“I’m on the bus,” he says. “I’ll be home in an hour.”
I turned to look at him, and saw that he must be about 16. His pale face and casual wear stood out amidst the corporate wear. You can always tell who is on their way to work and who had just finished from a night out.
His knuckles were grazed, the blood dried on his pale, bony hands. I could see his underpants from beneath his shirt, soiled like he had been wrestling on the ground.
What kind of party did he go to? Where was he coming from? Where does he live that takes an hour from Piccadilly?
“I know, I love you too,” he says. “I’m coming home,” he started to sob.
He didn’t smell of alcohol, so it must be drugs or trauma. Drugs and trauma make people emotional.
He was talking to his Mum. I knew because his tone changed when his Dad came on the phone.
“It’s only GCSE Maths,” he argues. “I’ve known that stuff since I was in Year 6. I swear on me mum’s life I’m on the bus. I’m on the bus aren’t I?” He turns to the couple behind him for proof.
“Get down at the next stop,” the couple tells him as they prepare to get off the bus.
His mind was disorientated, he wasn’t concentrating. Stressed and worried parents on one line, strangers trying to help him on the other.
He got off the bus with the couple, still on the phone. “Stay on the bus!” the man said. But the driver shut the door and left.
From the window, I watched the man point him in the direction of the next stop. And I wondered if he was sober enough to even get there. I wanted him to get off the phone, take a deep breath, and think.
But can anyone think in a state of trauma and hallucinogen? The stress of a night out – who knows what happened. The stress of nagging and worried parents – who can blame them.
Partying hard, taking drugs and getting into fights? Even the quiet hum of a morning bus can feel like a psychedelic storm, amplified to the point of madness.