Margins Magazine Issue 1 - Page 11

THE 127 I shiver as the cold seeps through from the pavement. Throwing a glance behind me to keep tabs on the man standing by the shelter, I check the timetable intently; will my watch to accelerate; move to stare at the direction the bus will arrive from. The 127, the 128, the 129. I silently loop-chant the buses that could take me home. As the dark slowly swallows the light I wish I wasn’t a lone woman at a bus stop. ‘The pavements are surprisingly clean after all the snow, aren’t they?’ As I figure out what the half-heard question was, I look round and the man has moved closer. He’s looking at me maybe because I have ‘one of those faces’, or more likely because I am the only person to talk to. Unless he’s mad and talking to himself. I smile and ‘hmm’ in agreement but keep it quiet because he probably is mad. People don’t talk at bus stops. The 127, the 128, the 129. I glance up the road. ‘Are you going to Selly Oak?’ he says. He clearly doesn’t know bus-stop protocol but the threat’s reduced now I’ve realised he is a head shorter than me and slightly stooped. Also his eyes are kind. And perhaps weary: the weariness of age. ‘No, Bearwood.’ ‘Do you live with friends?’ His soft accent makes the words more lyrical. I nod, hoping that the next question isn’t one about my address. ‘It must be nice to always have people around.’ ‘Yeah, it is,’ I reply, and he smiles. ‘Living on my own I sometimes have to ask someone the time when I’m shopping. Otherwise I may not speak to someone the whole day.’ He tries to joke but his eyes give him away. ‘Where are you from originally?’ I ask. His face falls. ‘I’ve lived here for many years. Is it still so obvious? I’m originally from Saudi Arabia.’ I assure him that this isn’t a bad thing: his accent is minimal. ‘I was so pissed off this one time. I was speaking Arabic with my friend and he told me that I had an English accent!’ I catch his anger: always speaking with a foreign accent, never quite belonging. I realise the weariness in his eyes isn’t age but a life spent on the margins. We talk about languages. He reveals that his children’s mother-tongue is German and that he had a childhood whim to learn Japanese. I start to enjoy his unassuming intelligence and share with him how I regret abandoning French and speaking only one language. A bus approaches. Not the 127, not the 128, not the 129, but the 61 to Selly Oak. ‘Perhaps we shall meet again some day,’ he says as he boards. I wave and smile as the bus creaks into action. But I know I will not see my nameless friend again. When I shiver this time it is not because of the cold. THE 127 HANNAH ROWE 11