George and I are sat at the services. Drinking a cup of tea. And discussing how much we dislike the new neighbours. Well, I say we, it’s more me. George is nodding like one of those cheap nodding toys.
He knows his place.
I don’t like the vans. There are so, so many of them. All white. White vans line the street. You would think vans don’t come in any other colour.
Or the tradesmen have no imagination.
I’m sure vans are sold in other colours than white.
And then there’s the smoking and the uncouth behaviour. I’m convinced they’re all football hooligans. They look the type.
I see George looking at them, wistfully. His snatched glances from the lounge bay window, or across the gravel drive. Imagining himself a man of such masculinity. Manual labour. Hard hands. Downing pints.
My George is not like them. He doesn’t drive a van. Doesn’t even like them.
He nods as I say this and inspects his nails. He has perfect nails. Like he’s been to a manicurist.
But he hasn’t.
I draw the line at that. Men should take an interest in their appearance, but they shouldn’t be too interested.
There’s a fine line.
One shouldn’t be too encouraging.
George lifts his eyebrows and tuts in his silent fashion that sounds more like a gentle cluck. It is his sign to me that things are not as they should be.
My eyes seek out the aberration: a teenage mother, covered in slap, stick thin – likely from drugs, dyed hair piled high, not much a day over fifteen.
What is the world coming to?
I turn my head slightly so George can see my lifted eyebrows so we are in unison.
I like it when we are in unison.
Disapproval of others is a shared interest.
George coughs. He has a very awkward cough. Attracts attention. I think he may be signalling he’s about to speak. He sips his tea instead.
I look the other way.
I’ve finished my tea and am hankering after another, but not at those prices. I’m sure they’ve made the cups smaller. Put less water.
They think we don’t notice.
But George and I, we notice. We keep a shared mental tally.
Life is not how it used to be.
George coughs again.
He starts talking, but I’m not really listening. A passer-by dressed in green nylon a size too small has caught my eye.
Does nobody check their appearance before they leave the house?
George’s lips are still moving. I turn my head, tune my ears. He’s stumbling and rumbling and rolling around words as though they were balls.
I stifle a yawn.
I think it’s best we went our separate ways.
I imagine him saying that. Getting up with gusto. Leaving me.
Or I leaving him.
But we have shared interests.
I don’t disapprove.