I went there for some peace and quiet, fool that I was. I wanted to sit in comfort, sip my drink, open my notebook and be inspired to write something passionate, something that would make the world sit up and listen. I didn't get my wish of course. As it turned out I could hardly write a word. A few hasty scribbles. Two crossed out lines. Three more attempts ready to be consigned to the bin. On another day perhaps that missing inspiration would be found as I sat in the sunny window of that Newcastle café. Perhaps I'd be able to watch the people pass by, see their faces, clothes, and the way they walked. Their smiles as they talked with each other. Their pained expressions as if their lives had fallen apart, perhaps as a result of being mistreated via cruel government policies. When DWP assessors have (allegedly) asked people why they haven't yet killed themselves, what hope do the poor unfortunates passing by have? Perhaps a man and woman would pass by having a very public argument, swearing at each other, calling each other worse names than I can think of and then storming off in opposite directions still effing and snarling. I wonder. If one of that pair had stormed into the café. Sat on the seat opposite me. What would I do? If she sat, slumped into her chair and burst into tears. Or if he sat, glared at me and said "What the f*** are you looking at you c***? She's just a f***ing b**** getting pregnant like that." What would I do? I can tell you this: I wouldn't cope well. I wouldn't have a clue. At least, I think I wouldn't.
|From a cafe trip. A different cafe.|
That didn't happen of course. I didn't watch the people. Instead I gave up. Put my pad of paper away. Played with my phone. Gulped my drink. And left. Frustrated. That's one story. It ends there. But there is another.
The other is the man who caused me to be even more frustrated. The man who robbed me of any chance I had of finding peace. Yes, him. The man at the next table. He had his phone out the whole time I was there. That wouldn't have affected me at all of course. But he wasn't texting. Wasn't reading. Wasn't even playing a mindless or mindful game. He was watching videos. One after another. With adverts in between. And with the volume turned up high.
I tried to ignore him. I failed. I put on my headphones. Switched the noise cancelling on. And still I could hear those videos. Loud. Now, if I weren't English and if I wasn't so scared of people I might have acted. Don't say I'm not scared. I am. I know it might not appear that way a lot of the time - like yesterday when I pretended to find lots of fun in strangling people and stomping on the heads of kittens. Ooh. I'm a terrible monster. Or at least, from time to time, I can create some despicable people for the purposes of fiction and performance. A monster is much more enjoyable than a Mary Sue. If I was someone else I might have got up and asked him - or told him - to turn the videos off or the volume down. Advise him of the benefits of headphones. But I'm not. Instead I suffered. Martyred myself. Perhaps everyone in the café this morning barring that man were martyrs.
I suffered. Complained. Updated Facebook. And left. That's another story. It ends there. But there is another.
The videos he was watching all came from the same source. The Daily Show. It's an American TV show currently hosted by Trevor Noah. It's known for being decidedly left wing. It's known for not pulling any punches when discussing politics and politicians. Trevor Noah is a comedian who grew up, of mixed race, in apartheid South Africa. Before taking over as Daily Show host he used to appear sometimes on UK panel shows.
Under other circumstances I'd have happily watched the videos. Hey, there's an idea. Why didn't I just get up and ask the man if I could watch the videos with him? Stop being frustrated. Find something to laugh at. I've watched Daily Show monologues sometimes. I have friends who adore them. And, I confess, in the last week I watched an old Trevor Noah one man show filmed in a New York theatre. It was a comedy. I have to say that mostly it was more interesting than funny and sometimes my interest strayed. Perhaps that's because my sense of humour very often doesn't match up with that of many people. Perhaps I was just in a bad mood. I had, after all, melted down that morning and was struggling with the after effects of that. I watched to the end through stubbornness, a refusal to give up on what was meant to be good. When the end came it took me completely by surprise. It felt like he was half way to explaining something. Half way. And all of a sudden he was all "Thank you New York, you've been great. Goodnight." I was waiting for a resolution or at least a punchline and none came to me. It was as if someone had ripped out the last chapter of a whodunnit. And yet, and yet. I'm still going to watch another show he made. It looks a lot more interesting. And I'm still going to listen to Daily Show monologues sometimes.
So I didn't ask to join in. I got up and asked the man to turn off the video or turn down the volume. I was scared but I did it anyway. I'm glad I did. He wasn't aggressive. Not at all. Instead, he looked at me with sad, puppy dog eyes and said, "But don't you love Trevor? Isn't he a dream?" I have to admit to being surprised. There I was thinking he was watching in order to witness incisive wit and a stream of insults of the Trump government. I hadn't expected this total crush.
I said I thought Trevor to be alright. I didn't tell him that I'd been a bit bored with the one man show. I also admitted I didn't fancy him.
"Oh. That's a shame. Me? I love him. He's so clever and he's so handsome too. Not just handsome. He's my pin-up boy. Literally. I have pictures of him on the wall. And that voice, oh god wow that voice. Melts everything. Just listen."
He turned the volume up a bit more and pointed his phone my way. Trevor was discussing Trump's policies on immigration with regard to mainly Muslim countries the USA doesn't sell lots of weapons to and also with regard to the wall Trump wants between the USA and Mexico to keep Mexicans out because they're rapists (Trump said). I watched. Trevor made a joke. I was expecting him to mention Trump's campaign promise to defeat ISIS within thirty days.
I'd have happily sat down and had a good moan about US government policy. And about UK government policy too. About the pained expressions on the faces of the people I hadn't watched from my window seat. I'd have told him how the night before someone had exhorted a group of us to "give Trump a chance" and how any chance I gave him had been squandered within a week as he continued to say and do mean things to anyone who didn't fit his perfect picture, some of whom had voted for him.
But the man didn't want to discuss politics. He wanted to discuss Trevor. Just Trevor. His passionate obsession. I guessed that Trevor was fortunate to be living in America. That way the man in the café couldn't be his stalker. Had he desired to be such a thing.
"So why don't you love Trevor too?" he asked me. "How come you're not hot for him? How come you wouldn't like to hold him in your arms and be kissed by him in his dressing room after The Daily Show?"
"Well, er, why should I? Not everyone is going to admire him as much as you."
"But why don't you? He's so gorgeous. I wish I could meet him."
"Well. If you must know, it's nothing personal about Trevor Noah. I'm sure he's handsome in his own way. I'm told he is. But I'm a lesbian. So he's just not my type."
"That's no excuse. He's Trevor Noah. He could sway you to the other side if you just listened some more. He nearly swayed Sandi Toksvig. He did! She said so. On television. And she wouldn't fib. Not Sandi. I love her too. Wouldn't that have been just brilliant if she had decided to fall head over heels in love with Trevor? And all because he spoke some Xhosa. He should have said some more and then she'd have turned. I just know she would. He's just so wonderful."
"I don't think he'd ever turn me. Just the thought of it makes me shudder. I'm sorry. But I'm a women only kind of woman. And I'm not much into them either. At least, not in that way."
"But what if Trevor said he was really a woman. Would you fall in love with him then?"
"Er. I haven't thought about that question before. I'll have to give it some thought."
"Okay. Fair enough. Just think though. Trevor and Sandi. Wouldn't they have made the perfect couple? I can see the wedding photos in my head. I've designed them you see. And if Trevor was a woman Sandi wouldn't even have to change. That would be awesome. I've designed them clothes for that too. Here, look."
And the man pulled out a large hardback book from his back. On the cover he had written, "Trevor Noah is the best man on earth." He opened it up. There were pages and pages of reasons.
"And this is the bit where I watched that rerun and saw Sandi nearly become straight. And this is where I designed them clothes. Took me all day."
He showed me two pages. On the first was a picture of Trevor and Sandi dressed up for their wedding. They were holding hands. I had to admit that the man wasn't bad as an artist. Surrounding the picture were lots of notes on how and where the wedding would take place. He flicked on a few more pages and showed me the second.
"And this is when I realised that if Trevor was a woman Sandi wouldn't have to start fancying man."
A second wedding picture, this time of Sandi and Trevor both in the most fabulous pure white wedding dresses. The shading he had got into his picture was astonishing. The notes about the same sex wedding seemed very different although I noticed that both contained a Xhosa musician singing the Danish national anthem. And why not?
"Wouldn't it be amazing to meet them on their honeymoon and become very good friends with them? Maybe even with benefits. It won't happen of course. But you can't stop a man dreaming. Anyway, I must stop all this chatting. I've got another five monologues to watch before leaving this place. You're welcome to sit here with me and I can point out all the funniest parts. I know them by heart."
I declined the offer. I had places to be. I invented them on the spot in order to have an excuse to leave that didn't seem rude. I'm glad I talked to the man. I didn't find out his name. And I never did get any peace in the cafe. But I've been able to remember our one-sided conversation with a very uneasy smile. It's been a pleasure to share it with you and stamp on any confidentiality he might have been expected. I wouldn't have done it ordinarily. But when the conversation isn't real and you don't pretend it ever took place perhaps you can't breach confidentiality.
Yes. I'm glad I talked with him. I just hope I never see him in a cafe again.