So, on Sunday, I was on the Megabus, coming back from doing a gig in Glasgow. I was compering this charity half-dayer of folky punk, which was grand, and all of it organised by Dave Hughes. Props to him. Endlessly energetic and tireless lover of DIY ethic. He played with the full Renegade Folk Punk Band backing him as well, and they covered Al Baker, the frankly immense One Night Stand In North Dakota, and whoever wrote 'Wagon Wheel'. Fun times were had. Much shouting along, etc etc.
These details, however, are incidental to this story.
Back to the bus.
I'm sitting there, with a misguided amount of bourbons, and I'm devouring them at a rate which suggests to my fellow passengers I have had many, many more bourbons in my life than sexual experiences. I'm also reading Neil Gaiman's incredible, epic graphic novel Sandman. I'm on volume 5 of 12. This also suggests of lack of sexual experience. The bus is slowly filling up, and a chap in his twenties asks if the seat next to me is free. I feel like saying something totally hilarious, such as "No mate, it's a fiver!" or "Did one ever see or hear of a Free Chair Shop? I very much doubt it!" There're endless variations on this punchline, and I for one find one as utterly hysterical as the next, and I use them at every available opportunity.
Except this time.
Due to sheer tiredness and simplywantingtogethomeness, my savage, cutting yet warm-hearted wit deserted me. I was left floundering.
What to say?
What to say?
It was a split second decision. My brain was flapping like a pigeon gunned midflight. And then I heard a entirely calm, youngish, male voice - weirdly similar to my own - say: "Yeah, sure, go for it". Then felt a shitpie-chowing grin smear itself across my face. I was practically insisting, begging him to sit next to me. I may as well have patted the seat of the chair after I said it. I may as well have got a bit of tissue and given it a spitshine. I may as well have dropped my trousers and pants and invited him to use me as a bargain-basement fuckstool.
Stupid, stupid, stupid politeness, constantly making me look like a desperate twat.
Anyway, so he sits next to me. And he has nothing to do with him. I find this weird. When you're on a trip - especially a nine hour one - the likelihood is you will get bored. So bored you will chew your own arms off just to feel anything other than the numbing, sinking, all-encompassing tedium. But he has nothing with him. No books. No magazines. No earphones. No food. Nothing. I see him briefly read a Tesco receipt, but this fails to entertain him for very long, and he's reduced to just staring out of any window his eyes fall on.
Why hasn't be brought anything with him? I wonder. Why, why, why? He makes only one phone call in a language I don't understand (i.e. not English), thus piling mystery upon mystery. Unfortunately, since we're all fragmented and isolated in a cultureless, blank landscape, I can't just ask him. It'd be, of all things, rude. And, let's face it, he might be comfortable not doing anything. Right?
Because what actually happens is this: whenever I open my said copy of Sandman, he turns his head and reads it with me. He isn't so rude that he actively leans in or anything, but out of the corner of my eye I can see him, reading, taking in the finely crafted story and complimentary images. But it is totally out of context for him. He will get nothing out of this. And it's just a bit weird. So I start playing small games with him, such as lifting the side of the book slightly, therefore obstructing his view from Neil Gaiman's genius. Or putting it away for a few minutes for no reason. All to remind him that if you're going on a nine hour trip, bring a goddamn book of your own.
But, of course, after nine hours, anything can get a bit much, so I put Sandman down for a bit and stare out of the window at the wet greyness of Middle Britain. It is at this point I realise something. Everything this guy is doing - every blink, every slight cough, every arm movement which even slightly encroaches on my half of the seats - is really fucking irriating me. Then my imagination goes into overdrive.
I imagine standing up, grabbing him by the scruff of the neck, screaming at him over and over again: "BRING A FUCKING BOOK! BRING A FUCKING BOOK YOU FUCKING TWAT!"
I imagine standing up, and doing an Arnie-style neckbreak on his stupid bookless neck.
I imagine tearing off his limbs, beating all the passengers to death with them and feasting on their twitching corpses.
I imagine doing all these things, simply to entertain myself.
But, of course, I don't do any of them. Because I'm nothing but a neurotic with nothing better to do with his time than project his considerable self-loathing on to a complete stranger who's just innocently sitting there and trying to read a little bit of someone else's comic book as unobtrusively as he can manage. He probably (i.e. certainly) doesn't deserve any of this.