Rain falls, its rhythm providing the comforting regularity of a three chord melody.
Safe inside, the breath of forty two strangers mists the windows so that London becomes only spots of street lights and neon shop signs. In that instant I could be anywhere, in any city, on any bus.
In any October.
The woman who is sat to my left - who I notice primarily because I had to ask her to move up when I first got on - is reading a piece of paper. I know it's terrible and one of the reasons why always being on the look-out for things to write about makes me a bad human being but I do clock what people are reading around me. And, erm, I will scan-read over your shoulder. Which is probably why you wouldn't want me sitting next to you on public transport. That and the fact I have been known to have inappropriate conversations on my mobile when I have lost my volume control. And that I write down overheard conversations for writing material. What can I say - I am a public menace. Boris should stop faffing about trying to get his friends cushy jobs at the tax payer's expense and slap some sort of ban on me.
So - yes, I admit I glance over at what is written on the paper in the woman's hand. It takes me all of three words to realise that she's reading something about Jesus, what with the third word being 'Jesus' and therefore it giving it away a bit. There's also much talk of Him and archaic English and rather an excessive amount of underlining. Which is, I guess, subtext for THIS IS IMPORTANT.
Which isn't, I confess, all that interesting to me. So I turn my attention back to the refracted lightshow that plays around the edges of the window.
Only - I notice, maybe in some sideward glance, that what the woman is reading isn't so much some sort of pamphlet as a letter. And I wonder - who would send a letter like that with all the unnecessary underlining and capitalisation? Because that's rhetoric - and long term readers will know I'm not exactly a fan of rhetoric. Even more so when it's used as the religious equivalent of a party political broadcast.
Maybe that would have been it. Maybe I'd have shaken my head, rolled my eyes a bit and preoccupied myself with the music in my ears and the smudgy beauty of this city. Maybe.
Only the next time I look to my left the woman is writing a cheque and I notice immediately that the name on it matches the name on the letter.
I feel my stomach fall.
And I want to say something to this nameless stranger whose breath is entangling with mine on the patterns on the glass in front of us. I want to say that this is not religion. This is not faith. That though this is me with everything that entails, I think pure faith can be something quite beautiful. But this letter is the opposite of that; words spun in hyperbole and contrivance. And - money.
Of course, these words circulate around my head, tangling my brain, but do not come out. Because though we share this space it is not my place to say anything. It is a deal wrought in our mutual silence.
As the woman pulls out a form from the envelope which enclosed the letter I try and read what it says - it yeilds nothing.
Another traffic light. Another middle eight of rain.
Then I see what the woman has written on the form -
Pray for my mother who is in pain -
I stop reading immediately, ashamed at both my arrogance and my intrusion. Treating everyone as the possible next story, an offhand line in a song I have yet to write.
And though I do not want the woman to send the cheque and though I cannot pray for her and her mother I wish with an inescapable urge that I could. That I could gift her what she needs.
That I could turn around and simply say - is everything okay?
And though this will have to go on the list of unsent things - I offer you the only thing that I can.
I offer you my hope.