by Laura Yates
HERE I sit; martyr to my craft. Gazing through a film of bacteria which has welded itself to the window of this number 50 bus, as the grey reality of Kings Heath High Street passes by.
I say passes. Perhaps hesitantly shuffles would be a better description. Throngs of people overtake us, stumbling by, presumably on their way to The Pear Tree for their morning breakfast beer.
Kings Heath. A once great town, now overrun with scoundrels and layabouts. Oh how I loathe it. As I do the number 50 bus and all who sail (smoke, swear, smell, dribble) in her. A wretched container for those whom success bypassed on its way to someone else… on its way to people like myself. To I, who am destined for better things. Not this. This is not for me. Being unceremoniously shunted up ‘da Heath whilst dressed in the regalia of my present acting job while everyone judges me. To these cretins, anyone who is not dressed from head to toe in matching tracksuit is an oddity. That said, I am currently unable to see anyone wearing such dress. This leads me to conclude that the top deck of this accursed vehicle must be rampant with them. Overrun by tracksuits and trainers and brand names.
Anyone would think these people of the bus have not seen a ‘jobbing’ actor before, regaled in oversized, striped trousers and baggy top. The probably believe I am suffering with some weight issue. Even my face, full of make-up and painted on smile will afford them no clue as to my character. How utterly ridiculous they all are.
In my future roles I shall command my own named and air-conditioned dressing room, but for now, travelling in costume is a sacrifice that I have committed to make for my craft.
My deepest fear is that this journey will never end. The enthusiastic vibrating of the vehicle could shake loose false teeth, or the soul from a person’s body. How do ‘Dennis’ create buses which are able to shake their occupants to death? Perhaps this is a way of controlling the undeserving poor.
They’re all looking down their noses at me. They judge me. I can tell. Some from the way they stare out of the window as if I’m not even here; others from the way they point and laugh. Snigger all they want. Fools. Belligerents. I expect they know that I am not one of them; that this ‘bus’ phase in my life is a transient state and very soon I shall be discovered and whisked far away into a world of celebrity, whereas for these reprobates, this is life.
The bus driver is the worst – deliberately pulling off with much vigour before I had been seated. Some of the passengers had audacity to try to help me up. Those who were clearly full of schadenfreude yes I said schadenfreude. I did well to haul myself up and reserve a modicum of pride, however I have still not been able to bring myself to further examine what is now on my left hand, after it became covered with whatever substance coated the safety rail unto which I was forced to cling, as the driver continued to mercilessly press her way onwards into the ever thickening traffic of the High Street of Kings Heath.
A murder of mothers amass at the front in the priority section. Their collection of children would appear to have no spine. They screamed in unison as the lurch of the bus caused me to stagger towards them, with my arms flailing and nose becoming dislodged. What kind of generation are we raising?
I have little time to spend on considering their response to me, for I, am an artiste. One day I shall be an actor of the most successful and richest kind and shall never think nor speak of this again. Nay – speak of it I shall, in interviews conducted by Alan Carr or Fiona Bruce or perhaps during the acceptance speech upon receiving my second life-time achievement award. I shall speak of how I forgive these poor simpletons for their lack of understanding, for them taking up the priority area with their pushchairs and children – sparing no thought for me in this oversized suit, being pressed against this fellow beside me with the skin condition, who smells of cider and foetid cheese.
I shall not, I hasten to add forgive the bus driver who caused my immediate fall upon embarking on this journey. She is condemned to occupy the halls of the unforgiven for the rest of her days.
We have passed Big John’s now. The local foodery frequented by local down and outs, who have probably raised money for their tasteless fix by hawking the latest version of GTA5 at CEX or Cash Converters (or whatever serves as Cash Converters since Cash Converters was burnt to the ground). Gone are the days when we, a generation full of hope, would don our finest white jeans and denim shirts and meet outside that very spot, which used to be McDonalds. How the tone has lowered over the passing years – oh Kings Heath, how the ravages of time have mauled you.
Concern for my left hand continues to grow. I am beginning to sense an odd burning sensation, and wiping it on the rough carpet like material of these seats seems to have done nothing but make it worse. I declined the offer of a ‘wet-wipe’ from one of the ring leaders of the pushchair gang – her dribbly inmate pacifying itself with a packet of crisps which appear to be changing its face to a dubious shade of orange. I have never truly accepted the wet-wipe as a method of cleansing; I was forced to use one in lieu of toilet roll during one most unfortunate visit – one should never leave a toilet feeling damper than one entered it, in my humble opinion.
We approach Asda. Slow progress this is indeed. Repeatedly shaken and shunted against my scaly travelling companion, his bulk rendering him incapable of peeling himself away from the glass of the window, and at least 85% of my right buttock hanging into the aisle. This is no way for an artiste to travel. When I have earned my stripes, I shall finally gain the elusive driving licence – abandoning the futility of Maypole Test Centre for the green grass of Shirley – and invest in a fine automobile for myself. Perhaps a Ford, or something Japanese – but no! I shall get taxis everywhere – no – Ubers – NO! I shall have a personal driver and be chauffeured everywhere I need to go, just as God intended me to be. Never again shall I have to negotiate the ‘simple’ timetable of the 50 bus. Every four minutes indeed. Why they insist on spinning these lies I do not know. Seven minutes I waited for this. Seven, long minutes at a stop swarming with a mixture of the youth of today or the elderly of 30 years ago.
When I have made it, I shall move far away from here. I shall live in Solihull Lodge – no, wait, Shirley – no – I must think bigger than this. The world shall be my oyster and I can think no further afield than south Birmingham! Knowle! I shall move to Knowle!
Arden is where I shall build my life. I would wager that the people of Arden have never so much seen a 50 bus, let alone endured the utter tediosity of waiting for long passed the expected time at a stop packed with those people who lack the necessary social standing to drive. Only a poor, wretched few Arden citizens will have heard of Kings Heath, and even fewer will have had the misfortune of frequenting this forsaken place, perhaps in former life, as today will once be for me. When I say where I have come from, they will say nothing – yet offer me a look which exudes shared experience. We will know we are kin, yet we shall never speak of it. It will be a knowing between us.
We have barely moved. The vibration continues to grow with worrying intensity. On the plus side, the tribe of pushchair prisoners appear to have been rendered unconscious, freeing their keepers to give their undivided attention to the glowing of their screens. It is a wonder any of their charges will learn the English language at all at this rate; vocabulary limited to ‘buses’ and ‘wet-wipes’ and ‘crisps’. Oh my. What a terrible future awaits us all.
I can now see the top of the High Street. Gateway to open roads and a better life. I am on my way away from this place. A person drifting through a world in which they don’t belong. I am truly an enigma, trapped within the body of a self-effacing actor, contained within one of the many guises of my people, imprisoned within a 50 bus, encapsulated by the High Street of Kings Heath, on my interrupted journey towards what is to be my life.
© Laura Yates 2016