In a trackside back garden grainy with dusk, somewhere between Dagenhams East and Heathway, a solitary fat boy steadies himself, uncloses his eyes, and shoots one final, match-winning basket.
Arm-in-arm, stiletto-heeled, they totter through the Sunday morning rain: a stubbled drag queen with mascara tears and a dead-eyed girl in a silver dress, united by lust for Vauxhall tube.
Someone told me Patrick Stewart often gets the tube at Bermondsey; I picture him softly mouthing shwoosh when the platform-edge doors open… just secretly, to himself…
“Oooh, Argos!” she squealed, teetering on the seat to press her face to the window as we ground up Kentish Town Road. Unamazed, her mother pointed out it was Poundstretcher.
She was far too old for him; and he was far too gay for her; but, that night on the 188, he thought what the hell, and took her dancing.
As the train brings her closer to him, she re-reads his texted description but finds herself distracted by just how many houses in Purley have trampolines in their back gardens.
“Sorry, mate,” says the man on the footbridge, turning aside to let me cycle past. “Cheers,” I reply. He nods, tight-lipped, then continues urinating onto the Blackwall Tunnel Southern Approach.
Outside the Crown next morning, a wreath shaped like a giant emulsion brush stands propped against the recycling bin; as the breeze rises, wet white petals drip onto the pavement.
At Clapham North he pulls a knob of root ginger from his bag and, with eyes cast down, rubs its surface tenderly; perhaps, I think, it’s his lucky magic ginger.
As staff sweep up, a blue-haired Japanese girl sits in McDonald’s window, ear to mobile, lips unmoving, two dark wet smudges fixed through glass on somewhere that’s not Pentonville Road.