I can hear a voice coming from somewhere faraway or perhaps it’s merely an echo I wonder when there it is again, “So what do you do?” But as I look up from the deep cavern to see sunlight and the silhouette of a man come to save me. Why is he wearing a frilly shirt I ask myself absently.
With a crash and a bang as loud as the silence after a thunder clap I am pulled out of this daydream and back to…
Gideon. I am still here with Gideon and after almost three hours, with only my weird imagination to save me, Gideon has finally. Stopped. Talking. Thinking he must be pausing for breath or looking for confirmation for something I make an ‘Mmm’ noise and already I’m drifting back into my daydream although why I have chosen a search and rescue fantasy with Gideon when he’s the one I’m hoping to escape from I don’t know but he is fit no denying. Those eyes. Those darn-
Me: “Sorry yes what?”
If he was a mute he’d be perfect. Wait, that frilly shirt! Just as I’m beginning to forget it’s even there BAM! Gideon takes off his jacket or shifts in his seat causing the ruffles to rustle (try saying that really quickly) and I am all too aware of it again. Wait, if he were a topless mute, then that’s problem solved Scarlett!
Gideon: “I was asking what you do for a living.”
Me: “Wouldn’t that just be rubbing salt in the wound a bit considering you’ve just been, you know.”
I mime the word ‘fired’ thinking that’s somehow better than saying it out loud but it just hangs in the air like a damp fart as Gideon looks watery eyed again. I am apprehensive about sharing my new job if I’m being honest. I mean, I’m excited, it’s certainly different but telling someone I barely know? How to phrase it, how to phrase it…
Me: My friend and I have started a business.
Gideon: Wow, cool is it a pop up?
Patronising git, no it is not a pop up. Pop ups – as my angry inverted snob chef friend Eddie says, “Are for public school wankers with Mummy and Daddy’s cash who fancy a new hobby.” And I should know, I’m inadvertently friends with a lot of them.
Me: “No, no it’s not a pop up we’ve got a long term lease in Bow.”
Gideon: “Nice. So what’s the business?”
Gideon: “What’s the business? What do you sell? Honestly no wonder I’ve been carrying the conversation this evening, you’re harder to crack than a clam.”
Me: “Nut. It’s a hard nut to crack whereas ‘one can ‘clam up.’’ And dominate is different to carry.”
Gideon: “Are you going to tell me or not?”
Me: “Yes, fine. It’s called ‘Body Part Art’ and-“
Gideon: “Sounds like a taxidermist, as owned by Sweeney Todd.”
Me: “It is live body parts. Live. Live!”
Note to self – stop saying live. You sound creepy and unhinged when you say it in this context.
Me: “Live attached body parts, I’m not running an abattoir.”
Gideon: “Then you should probably change the name.”
Me: “We can’t we’ve already got the mixtape design business cards printed. Look, people come in and my friend Jake – he’s an artist – paints on their body and then positions them on paper and then elaborates on the shape they’ve made after they’ve gone and makes personalised art work they then come back and purchase.”
Gideon: “You got mixtape business cards? You should think about getting more grown up ones.”
This coming from the man playing dress up, really? As I look up at the clock behind the bar I am both relieved and crushed by the fact that somehow it is past midnight. This means two things: I can reasonably ask for the bill and I have also missed the last train home, which means getting on the dreaded night bus. For those Harry Potter fans who have never traveled on a London night bus before, it is sadly absolutely nothing like the night bus Harry gets on. Replace the warm blanket and hot chocolate with a dribbling lunatic falling asleep on your shoulder and having a WKD dropped in your lap by a seventeen year old girl dressed like a prostitute Barbie. Anyway, needs must and the major silver lining is I finally get to leave Gideon.
Me: “And we should get the bill. It is finally late and you clearly have bigger things to worry about than my job description.”
The rest of this scene is short and goes along the lines of yet another awkward silence with Gideon. He’s sighing passive aggressively (if there were subtitles they’d read ‘whatever, jeeze’) and I’m trying to pay my half of the bill whilst putting my coat on just to try and speed up the process. It doesn’t. I end up getting caught and Gideon has to help me. I look like I’ve lost motor control of my upper body. In true British fashion, it’s drizzling when we get outside and suddenly I’m thinking about topless mute Gideon again.
Gideon: “Well, thanks for listening even if I bored you.”
Are those tears again? Nope false alarm, just the drizzle on that face. Those damned beautiful eyes. That resentful, arrogant mouth. The shirt’s getting wet. Oh Jesus Scarlett.
Me: “You didn’t bore me, I never knew how tough it is out there for um, fooorrrr uuuuuummm-“
Gideon: “Project architects.”
Me: “Exactly. Right well, lovely to meet you I’d better get going. Catch a bus.“
Gideon: “Me too, which way are you going?”
Whywhywhywhywhywhy is he prolonging this?
Me: “Erm that way?”
Okay there’s a 25% chance that he’ll be walking in the same direction. Only 25% Scarlett.
Gideon: “Me too.”
So off we go, walking together as if we’re a couple. A couple who wear matching shirts in public. I think I’d feel better wearing matching onsies right now. We get to Oxford Street and I think to myself well, this is it, at least I can take my chances with puking seventeen year olds in peace and block out my sex fantasies regarding Gideon. Awkward, rude, arrogant Gideon.
Gideon: “So which bus are you getting?”
One in six chance Scarlett. There is a one in six chance this guy is getting on the same bus as you.
Me: “Oh, the um, N38?”
Gideon: “How novel, me too. Wait, are you stalking me now?”
I pray to baby Jesus to help me out by making me disappear but he must be asleep or something because I am still in this reality. Yes, I say tiny inward prayers to Baby Jesus whenever I’m feeling particularly desperate, it’s a weird habit I have okay? Like counting the stairs in German when I walk down them to stop myself from tripping? You don’t do that? I’ve just overshared haven’t I? Shit. Moving on…
Me: “Clearly if anyone’s doing the stalking it’s going to be you.”
My flippant remark doesn’t go down well, I mean it really doesn’t go down well, which I personally felt was an overreaction. If you can dish out the jokes, frankly, you need to be able to take them too.
Gideon: “I can’t believe you just said that. I’m not stalking you! That’s really harsh Scarlett, really harsh.”
Gideon commences to sulk until the bus arrives, leaving me to mime outrage and confusion at this behaviour to my fellow bus stop strangers who make a point of not making any form of eye contact whatsoever.
Gideon: “After you.”
I mumble a thank you as Gideon ushers me on first. We sit in silence for a little while. I look out the window at some guy seeing his kebab for the second time that evening, almost forgetting Gideon’s even next to me. He decides to make conversation somewhere between New Oxford Street and Angel. Got to give the guy his due, he’s still trying to be polite, to the end.
Gideon: “So what do you then? If your friend’s the artist what’s your contribution to the business?”
Me: “Oh, okay I drum it up – the business and look after the cash. In theory anyway.”
Gideon: “What do you mean in theory?”
Me: “In the six weeks we’ve been open we’ve had exactly two bookings i.e. my parents who paid for the full body – I didn’t stick around for that one but I appreciated their support, probably a bit more than Jake did at the time. So I’m clearly not doing a good job of drumming up business and an old biscuit tin with hole cut in the top would do just as well for looking after the cash.”
Gideon laughs, and I don’t mind. It’s the first time I’ve actually voiced my genuine concern over this business venture and when I use the word concern I really mean gut wrenching fear over failing and falling flat on my face. Wow, I realise that Gideon and I have just shared our first joke of the evening when a group of (mime the word now) ‘youths’ get on the bus. They’re drunk and lairy, adding to the overall hellish night bus ambience saved only by this newfound banter between Gideon and I.
It is of course at this point the youths or hoodies as my petrified gran calls them, spy Gideon, moreover Gideon’s shirt. Then they see my shirt and the pointing and the laughing begins so we do that typical middle class thing where we try to ignore them.
Me: “So when did you become a fan of Jane Austen?”
Gideon: “Of all the questions you have you choose-“
Youths: “Oi isn’t that who wrote Bridget Jones? You f***ing gay or something?”
Gideon: “No-“ Then the rest is mumbled, “And I’m not f***ing gay you f***ing idiot.”
Youths: “What did you say?”
I had to say something. Actually I didn’t but the bottle of red was clouding my judgement.
Me (mumbling a bit): “Leave us alone.”
Youths: “You what Mrs Jones?”
Lots of sniggering from the Youths, they obviously thought that was pretty witty. I felt a one-nil situation so rather than shutting up I carry on even though I’m shaking and my voice is tight and my mouth is dry – I don’t really ‘do’ conflict.
Me: “And even if he is gay or an in-the-closet-gay who cares?”
I give Gideon a quick thumbs-up shaking like I’ve got the DTs and can’t work out why he looks so grumpy. I think the word he was to use later was emasculated.
Youths: “I do.”
Me: “That’s because you’re the biggest gay.”
Boom! I believe that’s one-all Youth. Where the hell did that sass come from? By now the whole bus is silent, we’re all on pause waiting. As the Youth starts to turn a deep pinky red I wonder if I’ve gone too far. When I see a tiny greasy bead of sweat form on his forehead, I know I have.
Youth: “Do you want to say that again you f***ing b***!”
Now I’m scared. Maybe I can use Gideon as a human shield – he started this anyway – no no, I have to face this or maybe I can just start screaming. The Youth is walking towards me with his pack behind him. I’m about to start shouting ‘rape’ when Gideon gets up and quick as a flash lamps this guy right across the nose. Blood sprays everywhere – really just like in the films, alright not quite like in the films but it was pretty grim. I start screaming in earnest because it was really intense if I’m honest, I’ve never seen someone punch someone in real life before, and of course rest of the Youth leapt on to Gideon, and then it all turned a bit high school bundle. I was surprised to see people trying to ignore it, looking at their phones, staring out the window. A girl actually put headphones on and turned her iphone up to full. People are right dicks sometimes.
Realising no one was going to lend a hand I tried to dive in but skirted around the outside hitting their backs. Suddenly one of the Youth Pack raised his hand to punch me – yes actually punch me – and the bus driver speeds up forcing those of us standing to fall on the floor, then breaks so hard he forces the bundle of people on the floor to loosen. He parks at a bus stop and everyone suddenly deflates a bit. I guess we’re all waiting for the doors to open so we can all escape but they aren’t opening. This is turning into a bloody saga now I think to myself, when I see Gideon with an eye in the process of swelling up. It’s at this point the bus driver speaks from a microphone.
Bus Driver: “I have locked the bus and called the police no one is leaving until they arrive.”
Youth: “You better be f***ing joking mate.”
Bus Driver: “In case you think I’m bluffing here’s the situation. I am safely locked in my cubicle with reinforced glass. You can’t get to me and I don’t care what happens to any of you. I am sick and tired of putting up with this shit so I suggest you make yourselves comfortable, they’ll be here in forty minutes or so.”
It’s like someone’s declared marshall law, are we going to kill each other? Turn to cannibalism?! Trapped in here? Someone’s going to puke soon and that smell is going to hurt. Oh God maybe the Youth will finish what he started and punch me. Tears begin to well up, I’ve never been punched, I never want to know what it’s like!
Youth Pack (talking amongst themselves): “Mum is going to go mental if I get done.” “I don’t give a f***.” “As if you don’t!”
What a bunch of pussies I thought as I helped Gideon up and sat him down on a chair. It seemed that we had all reached a stale mate of sorts and I was more than relieved as I looked over at Gideon, his frilly shirt spattered with blood (the Youth’s not his I don’t think, what a champ) when I realised.
Me: “You protected me.”
Gideon looks at me. Hard. Breathing hard. It’s pretty hot if I’m being honest. I cannot wait for what he’s going to say next, I don’t even care that it’s past one in the morning and the chances of getting home before three are slim to none. My lips part slightly, I allow myself the tiniest in take of breath.
Gideon: “After this night is over-“
Gideon: “Never. Ever. Call me.”
Will they ever get off the bus?
Will Gideon ever forgive Scarlett for being an idiot??
Will Scarlett ever get home???
Tune in next week for the final installment of The Longest Date Known to Woman Part III!!!