Sunday, May 20, 2007

An encounter on a London bus

Climbing the steps up to the second floor of the bus was so novel, foreign really. He loved it. Hannah looked at him and asked, half-jokingly, “Are you afraid of heights?” He looked away, wanting to hide his laughter. After all, he was the funny one, not her.

“Yes,” he replied seriously, “Can I go back to Canada?” She returned the favour and chuckled, almost giggled.

Chris and Martia had already sat down. They were facing the front of the bus, leaving Hannah and Georg to sit facing them. The London buses were so cozy in this way, he had only seen this type of set-up on trains in Canada, never on buses.

He was in a jovial kind of mood, and began his rant as soon as he sat down.

“Can you believe that guy at the squat? He just assumed I was American, didn’t even bother asking or nothing. I had to tell him, straight up: ‘You don’t want to be making that mistake with Canadians, we’re a bit sensitive about that.’ Anyways, I was just kidding really, but not. I mean, I didn’t want to come off harsh, but it really isn’t something you want to do. It’s not endearing, that’s it.”

She chimed in, a bit annoyed by his arrogance: “You need to understand that you sort of sound alike, Americans and Canadians, you have a certain twang. I sure can’t tell the difference between you. It’s not meant to be an insult…”

He didn’t miss a beat: “Sure, but you need to understand that we don’t like it, at all. Even though I think of myself as an anti-nationalist, I still don’t like it,” his voice was now getting louder, “it has something to do with American imperialism, you know?”

Just then he looked up and noticed a cute boy looking at him, a few seats behind Martia. He looked amused, a big grin spreading across his face.

Georg took this to mean he had an expanded audience: “So, it’s not that I think all Americans are bad people, in fact, I know they aren’t, it’s just that Canadians aren’t Americans!” He said this, rather amiably, but forcefully.

Hannah’s turn: “Alright, alright, I’m not daft. Take it easy. There’s no conspiracy against you, at least not that I know of.” She laughed at this, they all did.

Georg looked up and saw his new friend, with the short-cropped blond hair, laughing too, hardly concealing his surveillance. Georg fancied his smile. He was no longer paying attention to Martia, who was going on about gay men’s fashion sense, or lack thereof. What did she know?

The two boys stared at each other on the second floor of bus #345 from Camberwell to Shoreditch for what seemed like minutes, but was only 3 seconds. Georg felt an electric energy surge through his body. He looked away, smiling, got up and walked towards the boy with the too-cool hair. He sat beside him and looked him in the eyes.

“You seem quite interested in our conversation. What gives?” He was smooth, coy and confident even. He surprised himself.

The cute gay boy leaned over, and whispered into his ear: “I’m an American.”

Georg felt his voice travel up and down his spine, he almost shuddered, but he played it cool. He smiled broadly at this, thinking back at what he might just have said about Americans. He decided it didn’t really matter. “Not a good time to be one of those, is it now? Gay and American in another country, that’s rough.” He looked away, concealing his laughter. “At least you’re cute.” Oh yes, Georg added to himself, this boy is hot.

“I’m Eric, from Chicago. And I think you’re pretty cute too.” Georg felt his stomach flutter.

“I know, I could tell, why do you think I came over?” Georg is now having a good time with this. He’s been waiting for months to muster up the courage to approach someone he fancies, but getting over his previous relationship has been a long and tedious affair. He’s relishing this burst of sexual energy.

“I’m Georg, from Canada, but you already know that, don’t you? What are you doing in London?”

“I’m an architect, I’ve been here for 3 months, just decided it was time for a change.”

“That’s brave of you. Time for a change in London, eh? What are you doing now?” Georg doesn’t really know where this is headed, but it feels good nonetheless.

“I’m going to a club called On the Rocks. They have a trailer trash night, sort of indie-like. I’ve never been, but my friend swears by it. Trailer trash, how can you go wrong? What about you, where is your crew headed?”

“To be honest, I have no idea. I’m just along for the ride. Somewhere in Shoreditch for some hip-hop night or something. I usually always know where I’m going, but in London, I just follow people around, it’s a bit strange, but it works ‘coz I get to see a bunch of shit I’d never get to see otherwise. For example, I love these two-story buses, they’re so cool.”

Right then they look at each other nervously, the tension building in a bit of an awkward silence. Georg feels like leaning in and kissing this cute boy, but decides against it for now. Who knows who’s watching him on this bus? Instead, he continues to talk, he is a good storyteller after all.

“I’ve been here for 5 days, staying out near Camden Town. This is my first time going out on the town though. I’m quite excited, though I don’t really know what I’m getting into,. We just went to this squat in Camberwell, they had this queer night where most people weren’t queer, with this American woman from Portland playing the slide guitar, it was a very strange scene. The food was good though, veggie chilli with cauliflower curry. Nice mix.” He looks over to find Eric holding back laughter. “I’m glad to see I’m amusing you. Was it something I said then?”

“No, no. Sorry, it’s what you haven’t said.”

The words just sort of hang there, lingering there between them. They both smile broadly, as their hearts beat a bit faster. And faster still…