THE LONE NUTTER ON THE TRAIN
The next post will be on or before Sunday 4th March. If you want to read my latest comic novel The Lawless Book of Love, you will need to look at the January and February 2018 archive, see below to the right
A month ago, returning from the UK, I found myself on the Athens metro late at night. It is a long journey from the airport to the city centre, and I was headed for Piraeus, which made it more or less endless, for there is a particular type of dissociated fatigue about all-day travelling that is like no other. After about 2 stops an odd-looking bloke in his mid-thirties got on the almost empty train, the other passengers being harmless, often strikingly handsome women in their twenties, or elderly working men innocuously returning to their homes. This bloke who had fish-like dilated eyes and pasty skin and short greasy hair, could have sat anywhere he liked, but as sure as shot he plonked himself down opposite me, and after about five seconds started talking to himself. I hesitated precisely half a second and then lifted up and went and sat a hundred yards off. Perhaps five years ago I would have felt worried about offending his feelings, but tonight I decided that the broad definition of a disturbingly uncontrolled person, aka a nutter when stated accurately if unkindly, is that they don’t and can’t consider anyone else’s feelings, and although they are capable of irritability and reactive anger they are incapable of being personally offended in any sense that you and I would acknowledge.
His monologue continued half in Greek and half in English and the English was Americanised like that of a frenetic DJ or radio presenter. His intonations confirmed he wasn’t British or American, and for that matter he might not have been a Greek. Maybe, I hazarded, he was East European: Russian or Polish or Moldovan, and a small-time drug dealer, as he hadn’t smelt of alcohol, and his babble might well have been drug related? Just as credibly he was from Mars or Neptune or Pluto, as the punctuation marks to his delivery were non-verbal and unexpected to say the least. What he did was to percuss his bulbous fish-like lips with an expert adroitness, and then went:
It was in a way reminiscent of I was about to say Harpo Marx, but as Harpo is always mute in his films then it must be how I’d have imagined Harpo frictionally and sonorously exercising his lips if he’d been playing the creative fool. The point being that Harpo was lucidly and wilfully crazy as a comic artist (remember him feverishly eating a monstrous plate of peas loonily one at a time with a fork?) whereas this bloke here had no executive option, and in addition and unlike Harpo, he was not remotely entertaining.
He was by now on his phone, though only later did I consider that it might have been an imaginary conversation for the benefit of his hapless, helpless audience. He said in English, and there was a fair chance most of the passengers would only have understood the f- word and the Greek cusswords:
“He fackin cheated me man. Yes he did, the bastard. He ripped me off. Malaka! Malakiya! (Wanker! Wankerishness!)”
Two seconds later. “BRRRRRRRWWWWWWWW! BRRRRWWWWWWWW!”
There ensued more loud and insistent sentences in transatlantic English, condemning some phony and duplicitous third party. Then this troubled and troubling man who in most respects was painfully boring and dismally repetitive and an egotistical nuisance, as all he knew how to do was make others uncomfortable with his undirectional and angry discourse, suddenly and out of the blue and for only a few seconds became rivetingly fascinating, and indeed he took my breath away with his provocative originality.
“You know, “he said in slick and confiding even complacent English to his friend, or his imaginary friend, or to his Mum and Dad and siblings back on Pluto or on the Rings of Saturn. “You know something, man. There are some facking very strange people in this world. There really are. Fackin weird. You have to watch yourself with them. You really fackin do. Gamoto (fuck it). Malaka. Malakiya.”