Marcus and his Girlfriend

Naarha Mean? Rinnit – 29 April 2013
On the five-minutes-to-six evening bus from Norwich to Lowestoft, a young man talking on his mobile phone to his girlfriend. The number X1 Peterborough to Lowestoft bus began its journey shortly after half past two and will arrive in Lowestoft at a quarter past seven, it picks up people and drops them off on the way, including Norwich, where nearly all the people on the bus get off, and a new contingent of passengers gets on. Marcus can now move to the front seats upstairs. He had boarded the bus at Swaffham at just after half past four.
‘I’m now in the front seat, just a minute, right, as I was saying, I have some good news, you know Melissa and how the bad news is that she’s pregnant, well the good news is that it’s not mine.’ Marcus and his girlfriend knew lots of people in common.
‘I haven’t associated with Melissa for well over nine months, so that’s a relief, rinnit? Heh, rinnit. A big relief.’ Marcus talks of associating with people. Association. Prison terminology I wonder.
Marcus had spent the last four days in Swaffham with his girlfriend, a very special girlfriend, clearly special as he did not want to lose contact with her, even if only by telephone, on his way home to Lowestoft.
In his late twenties, with black spiky hair and a five o’clock shadow, Marcus is a little overweight. Pimply pink flabby skin shows between his shirt and grey tracksuit trousers, with a pudgy overhang. A builder’s bum only partly covered by dark, patterned underpants. But Marcus looks like he is strong and fit enough for physical work, if only were ever to do any.
‘Yeah, your neighbours are a bit painful, but I think you should stay in that flat, it’s a nice flat. Kitchen’s a bit small, a bit too small, rinnit, but you don’t know what you might get if you were to move, rinnit? It’s a nice flat, your flat. Got lots going for it. My advice is for you to stay put.’ Marcus’ girlfriend is in some sort of social housing, by the sound of it. There was no discussion about the cost of moving elsewhere.
And is Marcus’ girlfriend fat, thin, tall or short? From the conversation I could not get a picture, but I know she has changed her hair colour recently.
‘No, I like it, matter of fact I never noticed it when I arrived so it must suit you, rinnit? No, I should have said though, because it does look nice.’
Marcus does not have a job, and therefore has little available cash. He and his girlfriend have not been out for the evening while he was with her, and they have not had a lot to drink. About the only fun you can have if you have no money is sex, assuming you can find someone who will do it with you for free.
‘Yeah, I’m tired too, it was was a late night last night though, ronnit? Didn’t get much sleep. Nice though, ronnit? Heh, ronnit? Watching the videos there on the sofa. Can’t remember much about them though, heh?’
The X1 bus makes its way down the hill from Norwich Bus Station, out past the menacing-looking art deco City Hall, and onto the ring road bypasses, then a dual-carriageway road to Acle, where it stops in the main square to let one or two people off and on. Some ill-dressed young boys and girls are having a violent argument, outside the chip shop in Acle.
‘The next time I come and see you, I’m going to take you out for a meal, if you can get a babysitter, do you think you could find someone?’
‘Yeah, I know that everyone says that, but the difference between them and me is that when I say something, I do it! See. We could go out for a burger. There’s that place just down the road from you, rinnit? We’ll go there, next time, I promise. Promise.’ And to be fair to Marcus, there is not much choice of places to eat, in Swaffham.
The bus is now rumbling along the long, straight road between Acle and Yarmouth, long and straight with flat marshy fields on either side.
‘I might come next week. I’m alright for money as my neighbour owes me ten pounds and my dad owes me forty pounds for the fishing gear and my mum owes me thirty pounds for a washing machine, but I’ve got thirty pounds in the bank and I’m trying to hold onto that so I can come and see you next weekend.’
Marcus’ girlfriend has a daughter, who is not his, but the girlfriend puts the daughter on the phone while she goes off to prepare something for her to eat. Marcus is very kind to her. ‘Is it your bedtime soon? Is your mum going to read you a story? Which one is it? Oh, yes the elephant, that one is a good one, I like that one.’
And when his girlfriend returns to the telephone, Marcus says of the daughter, ‘Bless her’.
Of the people that Marcus and his girlfriend know, some have clearly been in prison, one of them has just got six months only a week or so back. Marcus said he was meeting up with Jason, Shane and Charlene – great names – some time soon, ‘But I don’t like to associate with those people too much, naarha mean?’
In the shabby, quiet, poor-person streets of Yarmouth the bus waits for five minutes at the sort-of bus station and the driver gets out to smoke a cigarette.
‘The bus has stopped. We’re in Yarmouth. Yarmouth. It’s a long journey, I’m ready to get back to Rowstoft. I expect my neighbour will want me to go in for a talk though, which is not good. I’ll tell him I have to get something to eat, but he’ll still want me to go in and talk. I suppose I’ll have to talk with him for the rest of the evening. It’s a pity I had to leave my flat in Thetford, it was a nice flat, that flat. When I was at college.’
After Yarmouth the X1 bus winds its way through the housing estates of Gorleston and then back out onto the A12 for a short while before it pulls into the bus stands at the James Paget Hospital. After that it is not far to Pleasurewood Hills, where I am getting off. Pleasurewood Hills is a theme park and funfair, but that is not why I am getting off the bus there, before the entrance to the theme park there is now a large Tesco supermarket, a Harvester restaurant at a pub called the Potter’s Kiln, which may or may not be an old pub dressed for the times, hard to tell, probably is, and a Travelodge where I am staying that night. As I leave the bus, Marcus is still talking to his girlfriend.
I never did get the full story of Marcus, how a young man who looked like he could be from Italian parentage and with an East London accent came to be living in Lowestoft with no work; what he was studying at college in Thetford; why he was so indebted to his neighbour that he could not refuse an invitation to spend an evening talking to him; whether his girlfriend came from Swaffham and if not what she was doing there; how he met his girlfriend; where his parents were; and what he thought the rest of his life might hold. Marcus was not stupid and not seriously unfit, he should have been working, though maybe his attitude needed a bit of work on it before that could happen, he seemed to find humility something of a struggle.
And what might the rest of Marcus’ life hold in store?

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