There’s a man sitting opposite me on the train this morning: he reminds me of the spy-thriller author John Le Carre, but a younger version. He is reading, but I can see he’s easily distracted by noise – which is OK, as there aren’t many of us on this train.
A few stops further down the line and two pretty women get on – around 25 years or so – and they sit beside us. The problem is: they’re chipmunks – both in tone/pitch and continuous chat.
For one of them, the problem is someone called Karl – that Karl was asleep, the things that people said about Karl, what Karl’s sleeping led one of them to do, the ramifications of the sleeping Karl, what Karl’s friends did while he was sleeping – interspersed with what shoes they bought (style, price, colour, location, height) – and then back to the ex-girlfriend of Karl.
The man sitting opposite me has closed his book; he puts it away and, elbows on his knees, he leans his head on both his hands and mutters something that I can’t hear, except that it’s quietly desperate.
And, we’re back at the character of Karl, confidences about Karl – now something so hideous that the chipmunks drop their volume, lean in and speak in a quiet hum.
How I, and the man opposite me, wish that Karl were more scandalous; then all of it would’ve been carried in a whisper.