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The Bus Station Tearoom
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The Bus Station Tearoom
A girl waits for her bus and as she does so she decides to go on a journey longer than the one home.
[802 words]
Rebecca Vaughan
[February 2003]
[email protected]
The Bus Station Tearoom
Rebecca Vaughan

He was hunched up, his head and shoulders swaying over his polystyrene coffee cup. As the draft from the door blew across the bus station tearoom I could see the cup wobble as it struggled to stand up, the small amount of liquid left in the bottom was the only thing keeping it from falling over. His face was raw and red, like a piece of meat that had been left to dry out on a butcher's sideboard. A grimy overcoat collar covered the bottom half of his face so all I could see were his high cheekbones and his grey unruly eyebrows sprouting over his dark sunken eye cavities. He was wearing a dark green woollen hat that covered lank grey hair, thin wisps poked out through a hole in the back of it. I was glad I was sitting on the other side of the room from him because I was sure that if I was any closer I would be able to smell the dirt on his clothes.

He didn't seem to be doing anything other than staring at the table. I looked down at my table, it wasn't much to look at, it was made of chipboard, covered with fake wood effect vinyl, blistering and peeling off. The wood was chipped at the corners where, for years, people's suitcases and rucksacks had banged into them as they squeezed through the cramped isles to rush for their bus. I fingered a blistered circle where a hot teapot had been put down without a place mat. The bubble split, and as I pushed down on it, a yellowy resin-like powder puffed out of the crack. I dabbed my finger on it and sniffed it. It stank of old dishcloths.

The door to the tearoom banged open. I looked up with a start to see the old man wiping the dregs of his spilt coffee off the table with the sleeve of his overcoat. The blast of cold air had brought in with it some leaves and a crisp packet. As the door banged shut again the crisp packet shot up into the air then gently floated back down to the ground. The old man reached down and picked up the packet, he looked inside then shook the contents into his hand, just a few crumbs. He tilted his head back and tipped the crumbs into his mouth, as he did so I caught a glimpse of the lower part of his face that had been covered by his collar. It bore two scars, one pink and fresh, the other white and old. I wondered how he had got them.

I turned my head to focus back on the blistered wood coating and began picking at the crack in it I had made.

"More tea?"

I looked up to see a waitress, different from the one who had served me earlier, she was young, about nineteen, her hair was greasy and was falling out of its pony tail. A growing out fringe was hanging in her eyes making her squint, she had a cold sore on the side of her mouth.

"er… no thanks" I said.

She sighed, turned away and began to walk over to the old man. She then changed her mind halfway there and walked back to the food counter. She walked in an awkward way, like she was afraid of stepping through a rotten floorboard. I looked at her feet and saw she was wearing high-heeled shoes that were two sizes too big for her. As she disappeared through the kitchen door, it swung back and forth making the tatty posters on the pin board next to it, flutter in its wake.

I looked back at where the old man was sitting to see he had gone. The crisp packet was scrunched up inside the polystyrene cup which was no longer wobbling in the draft. I stood up and reached for my rucksack, it felt lighter than usual as I pulled it onto my back. I walked over to where he had been sitting. As I came closer to his table I noticed a feint smell of body odour and urine hanging in the air. The table had a blistered ring on it too but someone had already burst the raised bumps and peeled away the fake wood covering. The chipboard underneath was brown and stained, but some fresh scratch marks formed the words;

"grab it while you can"

I stepped out of the dank café into the bus shelter, the wet bitter wind that hit my face was a relief from the dry, stale atmosphere of the café. I hesitated briefly as the number 55 pulled up, then walked over to the National Express office. The next bus was bound for Dover.



"A strong piece of descriptive writing." -- Luke Witcomb.
"I liked the motivational message this story puts across, I also like the way the descriptions make me feel I am really in such a grim rundown place. " -- Beatrice Vaughan.


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© 2003 Rebecca Vaughan
February 2003

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