In a city such as London, where the mad dash for the last tube begins as early as midnight and a half hour cab ride can cost as much as a tenth of your rent, the night bus is your friend.
But nothing good ever happens on the night bus. There’s fighting, there’s harassment, there’s a stranger puking on your suede shoes. There’s a guy who’s had so many pints that instead of the British political correctness you’re used to, he has a mouth full of angry, racist words.
A few weeks ago, on the 24-hour N73, that guy plonked himself down next to a very pretty black girl. Her nails were did and she had on high heels and beautifully applied make-up and her navy clutch matched her trousers.
He stared at her very closely and I wondered briefly whether she was a mother or a teacher or how it came to be that her patience seemed so expertly practiced. Pretty girls are used to strange men staring at them, I guess. Pretty black girls are used to being as cool as steel.
She broke form for a second, when he got in her face and slurred, “Why do you want to be English so bad?”
“I am,” she said, before realizing he was referring to her long, wavy weave.
“You can try anything, but you’ll never be English. That’s not your hair and we all bloody know it.”
It was a rant so unoriginal it wasn’t even offensive. I got up and sat next to her because it was the only way I could think of to say something without saying anything at all.
“Jobseeker’s Allowance buy that wig for you? Jobseeker’s paying for you to try to be English? Why are you trying so hard to be English? Tell me.”
He slurred some more before tripping over his big dumb feet into a world full of beautiful black people he’ll never get to love.
She stared straight ahead, cool as ice, strong as strength. But me, I haven’t taken the night bus since.