I have always envied people in their twenties/early thirties with lots of stories to tell about faraway places. “Remember that night when I got really drunk in New York and trashed the hotel room with a golf club?”, “…so one day we were completely lost wandering the streets in Casablanca without a map and no one could speak english”, “I met him when we were all high and skinny dipping on a desert beach in Hawaii…”. It’s like they have lived more than their years would have allowed them to, and I listen in awe – because most of my travelling stories seem to belong in a Trip Advisor review of an all-inclusive resort by a middle aged german tourist. Formal and boring. Thinking about it is not enough to utterly annihilate my wanderlust, but makes me wonder if I have been travelling with the wrong kind of people.
The girl is sitting on the chair next to me in a kitchen I’ve never been to, makes one or two random remarks and sounds nice enough. I decide to be bold and give it a try. Noticing her Sgt. Pepper’s t-shirt I mindlessly say, “so you like the Beatles”, and to this she replies with a cute little laugh and tells me the shirt actually belongs to her boyfriend but yes, she does like the Beatles a lot – do I like them too?
I immediately begin to conjure up some kind of euphemism less potentially rude than “sort of, but I never listened to an entire album” (which isn’t even true, I did listen to Rubber Soul from A to Z) or “they’re okay, but the songs don’t really pull at my heartstrings” or just “nope”. I go for the english equivalent of “acho legal, mas não é muito a minha praia” – and then almost as if on cue he enters the room, kiss the girl on the face (a bit too close to her lips, as I fail to ignore) and drops, “what, did she say she likes the Beatles? Liar. She detests them, she thinks they’re shite” and moves towards the fridge to get himself a beer, asking if we wanted some. She wanted some. Everybody always wants something, if he’s offering. I just manage to open my previously agape mouth to protest that I didn’t *detest* them, they were really just not “my cup of tea” (here’s again the english equivalent to the “they’re shite” that in the end I wasn’t allowed to avoid) and he laughs, handing her a bottle. “not her cup of tea… can you feel the contempt? she fucking hates them” and promptly exits, leaving me in the middle of a positively awkward situation. At least the other one got a beer for her trouble.
Why did I have to comment on her shirt, if I don’t really like the Beatles?
I don’t really do small talk and will latch onto anything in order not to drown myself and others in a silence that shows both my lack of interest and interestingness.
Why did he say that? He was still drinking his beer when, confused and angry, I hiss at him at the back garden. “I was just being playful. I don’t even like that cow. Why do you take shit so seriously? Do you want to leave?”
Por que você leva essas coisas tão a sério?
Trust me, I wish I knew the answer. I wish I knew how not to.
I don’t ask how many beers he’s had before I jump in the car, eager to get out of that place, and all along the way from the streets of Hackney back into the suburbs I gaze upon the lights on the corridors of the council states – the government subsidized apartment blocks, built to house the disadvantaged. I reflect for a while about this concept as the lights start to merge together in the rearview mirror and that ancient saturday night anguish comes crashing with a vengeance. I open Shazam to identify a song playing on the radio, he tells me the name before the app has a chance, I say thanks, put the phone back in my bag and we start discussing dog breeds – I wanted a beagle or a springer spaniel, he says they’re hard work and I should probably settle for a small, lazy type, like a maltese.
Anything not to talk about what I really want to talk about.
Days later, same car, it occurs to me.
“Can I use your own trick against you? Next time we see that Beatles fangirl I will tell her that you don’t like her, that you detest her, and then I’ll just fly the scene.”
“She knows I don’t like her. And anyway, we won’t see her again.”
“Why not? Are you going to kill her, shove the body in the car boot and dump it in the Thames?”
“Done. Can’t you smell it? But the Thames is way too crowded for fly-tipping. I was thinking the Severn; how about a night ride to Wales?”
“Now. Before the smell gets worse. I am actually going to put a Beatles record on to give a proper send off to the dead bitch.”
“Please, don’t. I detest them, remember? I think they’re shite.”
“Careful… She can hear you and will be back from hell to eat your brains tonight.”
“Yeah, wearing that Sgt. Pepper’s t-shirt”
“Which obviously made a lasting impression on you…”
“It’s from Primark. It’s only £9, I’m gonna have to buy one.”
I’m wearing it right now, giving a proper send off to my futile resistance.
We didn’t go to Wales that night.
But whether it’s destroying hotels rooms in Manhattan or dumping decomposing bodies into rivers on the welsh border in the dead of the night, I think you’d make a great travelling companion. The world is waiting for the stories we’ll have.
(movie stills: Heathers)