06/02/2016

#shortstory #sketchbook translations ii

By the way Tom set his shoulders, and puffed out his chest, I could tell that he was about to launch into the story of how his ex-wife had run up a huge bill on the catalogues, in his name; before leaving.

Thankfully the call of nature gave me an excuse.

I found him in the gents. Standing at the urinal. And, not to my surprise, he was wearing olive green cords and brown Church brogues, and the tweed jacket was of single vent. I took my place at the farthest urinal from him. After brief stage-fright, the flow began, but I peripherally noted that he shook twice: 'more than three is masturbation', and by the time I finished, he was still standing at the sinks.

And so we stood in front of the mirror, the four of us.

"There being no one to introduce us, perhaps we should break the ice," he said, shaking his hands before moving to dry them.

In my drunken state I was relieved that he spoke first, as it pierced my last remaining hope that this was some sort of dream.

He said his name was Julian, that he was a vicar, and had been attending the same conference on Zoroastrianism that I had attended. I introduced myself, and we both smiled, in the same manner, at my mention of the conference.

"And would you be catching the five o clock train to Leeds?" I asked, as he stepped aside from the dryer.

"Funnily enough I am."

We both agreed that this meeting was just too 'weird'.

Even his voice was like mine. Not the Olivierian voice that I imagined when lecturing to students on the Council of Nicaea or the Augustinian controversies, but that alien voice I hear on recordings. The one with the ill-formed vowels and the tendency toward the bumpkin of my grandmother.

It was then I suggested, that as we had an hour to kill, perhaps we might have some fun. Without going into details about Tom, I proposed that we might change places in order to see if we were really so similar.

He agreed.

And so, I returned to his beer, and he to mine: and the story of how Tom had taken the debt-collectors to the small claims court, on the grounds of mental distress brought on the harassment of their pursuit. It was rather fun sitting in the other bar, watching Julian react to a story I had heard more times than I recall. He clearly had my tolerance of boorish people.

A clearly unremarkable sameness we shared.

I, or Julian, were relieved of the obligation of continuing the pub crawl, by the barmaid's announcement that the stripper would be on at four o clock, and those wishing to stay should put five pounds in the hat. Both I and Julian drunk up. Tom did not. So on my behalf Julian said our goodbyes.

We walked to the station ignoring the numerous pointed fingers.

Quite what I expected from this chance encounter I can't say. If this were a novel, no doubt we should have gone on to plan some overly elaborate bank robbery or similar crime. As it was, we exchanged email addresses, and made some vague promise to keep in touch, before Julian went to buy coffee, and I to the toilet: before going to buy coffee.

We did not see each other on the train.