Dyed hair. St Tropez style sunglasses. Tan. Brown loafers. Plucked eyebrows. Large silver watch. Nervous. Stupid phone.
He’s an Astro Turf salesman. Yes. That’s it. Millions of square meters of the green burn have passed across his knees, skinning them raw in the process. But worth every bit of the long hours and the pretence. He is trying to look like he’s made his money, and his mark, and now the world is a sea of green plastic blades in his mind’s eye. Success. And never had to kick a ball.
All those samples are the perfect weed-free, maintenance-free alternative, Madam. Kids? They can’t wait to run around on the premium level surface. Breed a Beckham. Almost guaranteed.
The Astro Turf salesman levels his gaze at the young guy pacing in the station waiting room and tries to remember a time when he used to travel by car. Despite the trappings of artificial fame, he is finding the veil of all the cheap tans and the hair dye slipping and sliding towards the touchline; a gory tackle life is halfway through making. He looks at the train arrivals board, then at his over-sized fake Breitling watch, breathing heavy anxiety gasps against the fug of the waiting room air. Chew this air. He licks his lips and moves his weight from one butt-cheek to the other.
We all turn to watch a line of first class carriages roll to a halt outside. He checks his enormous phone for the fiftieth time today and thumbs down what should be the happy beeping of completed sales and whispers of dates aboard great gleaming cruise ships in crystal blue waters far away. With someone who loves him. No emails. Just social media reminders of the happy lives of people he barely knows or remembers from any number of drink and diazepam fueled nights out.
He updates another status and checks in with a business-speak-riddled email to an area manager who once tried to fuck him in a Travelodge toilets. “I’m on my way to Barnstaple F.C. Deal nearly done.” Scent of egg sandwiches in the waiting room now. Shouting PA system breaks his thoughts and prompts him to rush a note on a filofax withdrawn with a flourish from a light brown leather man bag – strap too long; polished with shoe polish last week; total cost five pounds. He finishes and zips his day up again, whistling under his breath. Adjusts sunglasses and finds himself aching from his eyebrows to his balls for the life of the guy opposite who’s craning his neck to watch the arse of a young girl as she bends over to get a phone charger from her bag. Brings thoughts of his neighbour in the Mews of overpriced flats in a suburb of some city somewhere. Jealousy and creeping and scraping fingernails against a bedpost that should be familiar, but isn’t. Why aren’t there gouges on his bedpost? What’s left of the tiny part of him that doesn’t hate or wishes things had turned out better?
What would life be like if it wasn’t like this?
He wipes the answers away across the non-stick surface of his mind for the zillionth time, and bashes on the phone:
Barnstaple won’t know what’s hit it tonight!!! 🙂
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