“OMIGOD! Didn’t he sleep wiv what’s ‘er face? You know, er!” She tuts through gloopily varnished lips, whilst her right hand lingers, poised in mid-mascara stroke, the caked black wand humming around the side of her head like a conductor desperately attempting to control a microscopic orchestra. She tuts again, the summons isn’t working and the name, it seems, just won’t come. “What’s ‘er face?!” she half-tuts, half-sighs, shocked with her slippery grip on such juicy gossip amongst such a captive audience on such a promising Friday night.
We, the passengers of the Central Line tube rumbling towards Liverpool Street, are just as interested to know who he is as her three mates are.
It’s the end of the week, the venn diagram time of the evening when two diametrically opposed forces converge on the tube. That twilight zone in the forever crepuscular life of the underground, when each carriage becomes a temporarily interlocked front line of the post-work-had-a-few-pints-and-feeling-decidedly-in-the-mood-to-rip-it-up camp and the weary, urban-tanned, work-laden, exhausted, mentally bedraggled, spreadsheeted-to-death heavyweights.
The swaying bodies either reek of offices or booze or both – the carriage wobbles, so do we and it’s a tipping point. It’s home or game on.
Hardly an argument for the poor souls on their way to the nightshift, or the beaten young father on his way back to his baby. Or the tourists, tired and lost and ripped-off. Or to the lads, nervously jiggling with pre-piss-up nerves, pints in their eyes and girls in their dreams. And earshot.
Laughter the sound of fluffy picture frames and bags of fresh chips brings me back to the tutter, who is now declaiming the virtues of make-up application on the tube. She smears a worryingly khaki coloured paste across her forehead, leaving a no-mans land between her hairline and the painted skin. The odd thing is, her skin was fine beforehand. Better, actually. But that’s not on their minds – least of all hers as she squints into a swimming, stamp-sized mirror.”‘E gets around! Omigod, didn’t he sleep wiv that other one as well? E gets around doesn’t ‘e?!” They all shriek with alcopop-fuelled excitement and more lipgloss – the single most powerful tool in the urban girl’s arsenal – is passed around with cooing reverence and a round of bubblegum-scented appreciation.