Late Night Montage

By Jo Phillips

Illustration by Bee Davies
Illustration by Bee Davies.

It’s winter-dark. I am hungry. I see a market stall laden with hundreds of pieces of fruit. I take an apple. I am pleased that near its base is a small oval bruise. This apple could well have been a reject apple.

I am tired.

The centre doors of a bendy bus swish open in front of me; school kids, neatly uniformed, tumble out. There are lots of empty seats. I get on. I don’t swipe an Oyster Card. To tell you the truth I don’t have an Oyster Card. I am penniless otherwise I wouldn’t have swiped the apple. I sit in the warmth and wish I were upstairs on a double-decker where the view is better. Then I chide myself for being ungrateful.

The bus becomes crowded. A woman glares at me so I raise my right eyebrow; I am not without talent, just undeserving. I notice her baggy yellowing tights and her swollen ankles and vacate my seat. As I shuffle and bump past her the purse protruding from her satchel falls into my pocket.

I leave the bus. The purse contains £7.26, four plastic cards and a family snapshot. Then I see a donor card and a cellophane wrapped lock of grey hair. I deduce she’s a sentimental woman who owns a Co-Operative Society credit card. Coincidentally, I have alighted outside a branch of a Co-op Bank so, feeling unusually mellow, I post all but the cash through its letterbox.

I am glad that the sum of money is small. Enough to sit inside a cheap burger place and legitimately use the facilities just for customers. I eat warm food and wash in warm water and use soft toilet paper. I don’t leave a tip.

Maybe Oxfam will have shoes for £3.27 in the morning. Now, though, as I leave the café to start the long walking wait for dawn, I eat the apple slowly, making it last. The bruised bit is the sweetest.