Sunday, February 25, 2007

Harold

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This morning a man sat next to me on the bus and he smelt of yoghurt. Specifically, strawberry yoghurt. Even more specifically, he smelt of strawberry flavoured Yoplait, the strawberry flavoured yogurt drink. "All the health and goodness of yogurt with the delicious blended creaminess of Yoplait®. It is so good."

I didn't see him, I didn't look. I kept my eyes trained on looking out of the window and even managed to avoid looking at his reflection.

But I knew; I could feel from the amount of space that he was taking up on the seat next to me that he was very large. I knew that his skin would be pudgy, white - almost translucent, cool and slightly clammy to touch. If you pressed your fingers into the skin of his cheek it would sink into the soft fleshiness like dough. The smell was like children, children in the playground with their wet, sticky fingers and milky-yogurt sicky smell. I knew that he was watery, and would be insipid and wet-lipped. He would be wearing a navy zip-up coat and flakes of dandruff would speckle his shoulders. He would wear sensible, black, easy-care trousers, which once came from Marks & Spencer, but he bought them in a charity shop for £1.50 five years ago. On the right leg of the trousers was a drying white droplet stain, crusting, from the carton of Yoplait that he had drunk for breakfast that morning.

He likes to treat himself to Yoplait for breakfast. It's made from yoghurt so it must be good for him, and he's not too good with solid foods too early in the morning, it upsets his delicate digestion. Unless, of course, it is on the weekend when he treats himself to a full English breakfast at the cafe on Stratford High Street.

On Thursday night he goes to Lidl and does all his shopping for the week; he used to get a Family pack of Yoplait even though he doesn't have a Family. Now he gets the New Easy to Store Fridge Pack. "The only thing more delicious than one cup of Yoplait yogurt is EIGHT!"

He drinks his Yoplait at 7.30am after he has fed Samson, his mackerel tabby cat. Then he washes and shaves himself and walks to St. Anne's Church at Limehouse where he gets the number 15 or 115 bus whatever comes first, although he prefers the number 15. Every day he sees the same two men walking their dogs. They look like they might sleep rough, but one has a Yorkshire Terrier and one has a West Highland White Terrier, which doesn't seem quite right for tramps; tramps have mongrels, everyone knows that. Every day he walks through the park and sees the men sitting on a bench talking and their dogs running around shitting on the crocuses which have just started to come up among the few remaining gravestones.

He gets the bus to right outside the job centre at the top of Commercial Road. He arrives at 8.45am and waits for it to open at 9 O’clock precisely. Sometimes the people who open the job centre are late and that annoys him.



Lisa Payne

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