Friday, 26 August 2016

Topi

One of the reasons I'm so careful with my tech is that my first laptop, which was my only computer available for years, got bashed about a lot by general clumsiness on my part. I used to take it practically everywhere with me, uninsured, to various locations as far-flung as Bristol, Birmingham, Blackpool, and a few places that didn't begin with B... including Africa. Bruised though it was, I often did manage to get it working again, up until the point where I was staying at TD's house (sans TD) for a week and didn't want to risk my new netbook. My laptop valiantly held out for a week of blog posts, essay writing and lacklustre Internet connection, despite being almost ten years old.

One place that I always took my computer to, despite probably not needing to as there were about 4,204,302 computers there already, was 47's house in Kent. The train from Victoria took a lot longer than you'd think, and the first time I went, I forgot not only my computer, but my 'phone and iPod too, so I had nothing to do (didn't have time to buy a book either...) and was practically crawling the walls of the train by the time it pulled in. I didn't make that mistake again.

It was one such occasion, on a train towards Kent, that I was sat at a table with my laptop open in front of me. I wasn't doing much: mostly playing Ice Climber on a NES emulator, if I remember correctly. I had about half an hour, by my estimate, until I got to 47's station, and I was just considering switching to a different game (I had Kirby's Adventure and that was pretty good) when a pretty Japanese girl of about my age sat down opposite me and flashed me a smile.

I grinned back, but couldn't do much else; I had my earphones in and the train was full of people. Plus, what would I say? For five minutes, while the Game Over screen of Ice Climber stayed open on my laptop, my entire existence consisted of nervous glances, shy smiles and general fidgeting. Trying my very best to look cool and important, I opened Notepad and started tapping away, as if I had something urgent to write and was utilising my time like one of those wankers you see on "business class" adverts.

An image from the previous year, of me writing an essay for university, hit me like a bullet at that point - only that time, the Japanese girl was naked and on my desktop wallpaper (and a nude model, no less). Here, she was sitting opposite me, and smiling.

I tapped at my keyboard continuously. I was writing a poem - yes, a poem - for her. No, about her. Hold on, that sounds creepy. About me. About me looking at her. Actually, no. A song. I'll write a song, yes, that'll do. It can be yet another of those songs in which I try to sing in Japanese. Okay, that works. What rhymes with Ice Climber?

For about twenty minutes of deletions and frankly awful loud/crowd, Utada/harder lyrics, the number of passengers in our carriage started to thin out as people drifted off towards more UKIP-focused bits of Kent than where I was headed. Eventually, and typically for these scenarios, the two of us were left. She got up, walked off to the end of the carriage - either to stretch her legs or use the toilet, I assume. I also assumed that this would be the last I'd see of her; there was an entire carriage full of empty seats and you probably don't want to return to sitting opposite the slightly creepy boy who's writing a song about trying to not look at you looking at him.

She returned to the exact same seat, sat down and flashed me a full beam smile and a nod. I couldn't help it - I smiled too.

Song kind of finished, I packed my laptop sway and made my way to the train doors at the final station. I stood aside to let her off first and then wandered through the concourse, scanning my ticket and walking out into the evening air. I noticed, as I walked through the door, the young lady getting into a taxi. Just before it drove off, she waved at me - an actual wave! Friendliest stranger ever!

"Who's that?" asked 47, as I raised a hand myself in farewell.
"I don't know," I said truthfully, "but I've written a song about her."

And, as I headed off with him for a weekend of indie and chips from a kebab van, I felt a lot more satisfied than I had in a long time.

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