...Great Portland Street
“...black raspberries, watermelon...pineapple. What else?” I ask, still looking at the canned pineapple. I don’t know why I haven’t taken them yet, but for some reason, I’m trying to figure out which can is, like, worthy. Even though they’re all the same shite. This is the third one I’ve picked up, but it doesn’t feel like the third one. It’s dented a little, but I still put it in my basket and go browsing through the next aisle.
Mum’s saying something in my head.
I shake my head and keep walking.
My ass fucking hurts; I’m waddling, basically, which is enough to stop me from thinking about Mum. Whoever that was last night did a number on my ass, but Jesus Christ was I in a dry spell since DAG. It’s fuckin’ great to get out of it.
I pick up a bread loaf and some bagels, and swing into the next aisle for soup.
And there’s fucking DAG squatting and staring at some Marmite, backpack draped over one shoulder and a Sainsbury’s basket on the floor next to him.
“...is this, like, England’s version of Nutella?” he asks no one, turning the Marmite jar over and over.
Nope. Nutella’s two aisles away next to the cereal.
I begin sliding down the aisle, bouncing between the shelves because I don’t want him to notice me. I don’t wanna go up to him. I just wanna slide passed him and go on with life. If he notices me, that’s fine. He won’t, because he’s so wrapped up in trying to figure out if it’s British Nutella. Which, again, it isn’t.
“C-can I open it?” he asks, looking around as he unscrews the lid. The foil cover kinda stops him from smelling it. But he still smells it anyways. DAG exhales, whispering, “Aw,” and instead of putting it back, he screws the cap back on and keeps looking at it.
I sigh, walk up to him, and say, “We gotta stop meetin’ like this.” Not what I wanted to say, but whatever. It’s out there.
He physically shudders, looks up at me, and then gasps. “Hey, you’re the guy from the Bugle!”
Does this guy have no fucking idea of how loud he is? “Bulge. And yes. Don’t pick that up.”
There’s Marmite in one hand, and some pasta white sauce in another. I think what amazes me more is the fact that the pasta sauce isn’t even near this aisle. “Which one?” he asks.
I tap on the Marmite jar. “It smells like shite, don’t take it.”
DAG’s eyes narrow. “You’re British, right?” He adjusts his basket of food on his arm.
I blink. “I fuckin’ hope so.”
He pushes back the rims of his glasses. “Is this just British Nutella?”
I sigh. “...no.”
“Oh.” He sounds disappointed, and puts the Marmite jar away. “I’ve been craving Nutella for a couple days.” He looks down. “I kind of miss home sometimes, you know?”
He looks up at me and asks, “What are you doing later this weekend?”
“What, like a date?”
He shakes his head. “No. My friend and I are going to a pub for dinner - or tea. Supper? I don’t know what people call it here and it confuses me. But anyways, I wanted to know if you wanted to come.” He pauses. “What do you call it?”
He can fucking look it up online. I call it tea, but I don’t care right now. I sigh and ask, “Where?”
“It’s at seven.”
“No, where’s the restaurant?” Daft bugger.
“Oh.” He looks down, definitely concentrating, and then finally says, “I don’t know. Can I get your number?”
If he was attracted to me, this would be real smooth. Except I don’t think this guy could charm a rock.
But I realise I’m taking out my phone. I’m tempted by the food, but I also kinda like that he’s inviting me to something. Something to distract me, I guess. “You’re not gonna put in my number on, like, WhatsApp ‘r somethin’, right?” So many people I don’t want to talk to anymore are on WhatsApp.
“I don’t think I have that.”
I grunt and look down. “Ya have it.” Because of course he does.
He looks at his phone. His head recoils, and I can see the folds of fat under his chin. “...I have that.” He looks back to me and asks, “I-I mean, if you don’t like WhatsApp, I can message you on Facebook or something. I have Snapchat and LINE, but I don’t use those that much. I just need WiFi. Is that okay?”
I roll my eyes this time. Because if I sigh any more than I am now, I’m gonna pass out. “Fine, fine. Whatever. WhatsApp is fine.” Fuck. “What’s your number?”
“Okay,” he says, grinning. He stares at his phone for a second before handing it to me, maybe a little too pleased for me to do it. “Uh, h-here. You can write your number in for me. I just don’t want to miss any numbers or something.”
I trade phones, and begin putting in my number into his. “So...you work?”
He purses his lips and nods. “Yeah. I do. It’s really interesting. I’m not sitting...” He pauses as he types in his number, then sighs. “Hold on.” He actually restarts the number. I finish about a minute before him, and then he hands me back my phone. “I want to be sitting in on the meetings, but I’m not at that level yet, apparently. But I get their notes. They, they’re still interesting to read, but I do wish I could hear the conversation behind it.”
I hand him back his phone. “Wait, you’re not studying?”
“I am. Who said I wasn’t?”
“But you’re working.”
He puts his phone in his jacket pocket, which is real posh-looking. The jacket, I mean. The phone’s screen is cracked in places. He’s probably dropped it a ton. “It’s a work/study program. I’m at an architecture firm but I’m also studying at university for a semester. It’s good experience, and it helps pay for some of my expenses, too.” He smiles at me. Dimples. “I’m excited for you to meet him.” He smiles bigger, and it’s toothy. “Adrian’s nice. He isn’t in my study program, but I met him on the Thames boat tour – ”
“Do ya want me to show ya where the Nutella is?” Because I’m uninterested in him and his friend. I just want to get home, eat my fruit, and go out.
“Wait, they have it here?” he asks, half-shouting.
I shudder. God, why do Americans have to talk so loud? It’s like they have no sense of public volume. And people’re staring at us. So I turn and wave my arm for him to follow me. He takes his time putting back the Marmite. “Come. On. I have places to go.”
“Oh?” he asks, catching up to me. He trots over. Like a horse or something. “Special plans for tonight?”
Dumbass. “I’m goin’ out.”
He smiles. “That’s cool. Where’re you going? Movie? Play? I’m supposed to be seeing something later in, like, March or something. Or is it May?” He pauses. “Or...is it a date? He gasps, like he’s figured it out. And then he nudges me in the arm with his fist. Like we’re friends or something. “I hope you have fun tonight, Tommy. But not too much fun. Be safe. Listen to each other. Use protection.”
Oh my God, stop talking.
“Who is she? Or he? They?”
Wrong on all accounts; I roll my eyes, and he doesn’t see it. “Nope. Goin’ cruising.”
“Oh,” he says softly. “Again?”
The fuck does that mean?
His eyes are down at the basket of food he has. But then he looks at me and asks, “What’s your type? That you look for?”
“Why.” Not a question. Just why.
He shrugs. “Curiosity killed the cat.”
“Do you wanna be it?”
He’s looking away, staring at some cereal. Which probably means he didn’t hear me. “Oh my God, Nutella!” He runs up to the shelf and, just, looks at it. There’s the snack ones and then two different size jars, but he’s just looking like they’re museum pieces.
I take one and put it in his basket. “Good. You’re done. Bye.”
“Wait, I have a discussion question for you to, to ponder.”
“What do you think are the social ramifications of bestiality?” HE ASKS IT SO CASUALLY.
My eyes go wide and I look away. Why? WHY? WHY?
He looks at me. “No thoughts? Hm.”
I want to strangle him. The old guy at the end of the aisle is looking at us. This is the worst fucking thing to ever happen in a grocery store.
I get close to him. “You need to shut up.”
He blinks. “But, we’re talking about kinks in my psychology class – ”
“I. Don’t. Care.”
“ – but someone asked about that – ”
Why would someone ask about that?
“ – and I’ve been, like, nonstop thinking about it for an hour.”
“Stop,” I growl. “Never talk about this again for, like, a thousand years.”
He looks up at me with these sad eyes and then picks up the Nutella and looks at it. “Oh! What did you study at school?”
“Maths and science.”
“Nono, like...at university.”
“Oh.” He puts the Nutella back in the basket and looks at me. “Is that all you’re getting?”
“Yes,” I spit. No, but I’m just done dealing with him. I’ll get the rest of my crap from the Tesco by the flat later.
“Then do you want to go check out together?” He smiles.
I groan, because no matter what I say now, I still need to check out. “Fine.”
“Yay,” he says, his shoulder rising toward his ears. I want punch him. I really want to fucking punch him. But then he turns and leads the way to the till. “So when would meeting up work? Because Adrian and I were thinking the weekend but if that doesn’t work – ”
“Just walk.” I push him on towards the front.
He goes first. He fumbles with his card and speaks a weird mix of American pronunciations and English ones. His voice is barely a whisper as he talks to the cashier. If I closed my eyes, I would’ve assumed he was British.
But then he turns to me and smiles like he accomplished something. It takes half the time for me to pay. Because I’m not interested in the girl’s fucking weekend plans.
“Are you walking back to the station now?”
“I’m going to Great Portland Street’s station and I was wondering if you were going that way, too.” He smiles. “We could walk together.”
Oh thank God. “I’m, uh, actually going to Goodge Street.”
“Okay.” He stops at the door and backs away to head up Great Portland Street towards Regents Park. “I’ll message you,” he calls, waving his hand up before turning.
I force my feet to move when he finally turns away, and I walk down Great Portland toward Howland Street. I sigh and run my fingers through my hair, watching as a truck takes too long to turn onto a side street. It blocks my way.
“God, dammit,” I mutter, pulling out my phone and looking at the number punched in.
Of course he didn’t write his name on it.
Of course he didn’t save it.
I have newfound strength to fucking strangle him. How has he survived this long being so goddamn daft and oblivious?
I stop at the corner and save his number as the only thing I know now: DAG.