by Martin Forbes
The bus was moving slowly towards the stop at the very end of Baker Street. As Usual Jonathan Parker, the leading executive manager of GW Spirits, stood up from his dirty seat at the rear and left without saying goodbye – and no one got on. The driver was about to close the doors again when a young man waved from a distance and ran energetically towards the bus. He looked slightly Arabic and when he entered everybody stared at him. There had been a lot of Muslim suicide attacks lately – everybody was glad when they realized that it was just Chouki, who usually boarded the bus two stops before.
“Why are you getting on here, mate?” Martin asked. He was a rather fat and curious bloke who kept pestering all the others with his inquisitive questions and indiscreet revelations, which were even more disturbing than his greasy hair that hung down to his shoulders. Chouki was surprised because Martin had never talked to him before: “I would say that is none of your business, isn’t it?” he replied in a rather cool but friendly way. “Leave him alone, Martin”, the bus driver said, but Martin couldn’t be stopped. “Have you got a new girlfriend?” he continued. “Is she English?”. The others were already slightly annoyed, embarrassed about Martin or simply disturbed by the talk that intruded upon their daily routine.
Nobody expected Chouki to answer Martin’s weird questions, but it was strange that he said nothing at all. After a while Chouki seemed to become nervous and Martin had a smile on his face: “Why are you so nervous, mate?” he asked and the others took increasing interest in the matter. “Is she married?”. Chouki played with he ends of his plastic bag. “Oh god, Martin, shut up! Everybody gets nervous when YOU talk to him“, the bus driver said. Martin changed his tactics and stopped talking for a while. For Chouki the silence was just as unbearable. At the next stop Martin suddenly started all over again. “There is something wrong with him today, don’t you think?” he said to his neighbour, who nodded imperceptibly – just to get rid of Martin and because she was too tired to give him a reproach. She looked at Chouki, who became slightly red in the face. “Why are you looking at me?” he said and firmly gripped his plastic bag. Everybody could see how Chouki’s knuckles turned white and bloodless. “You’ve never had a plastic bag with you before”, Martin said and some of the others nodded, even though they had not intended to follow the conversation in the first place. The bus driver turned round and cast a quick look at the Arabian bloke.
At the next moment Martin thought about the recent suicide attacks and started to panic. His smile was gone. “I fuckin’ asked you what was in your plastic bag”. The Arab just stared at him. Martin jumped from his seat and grabbed his arm. The Arab did not defend himself. He stiffened so that Martin could not move his arm and look into the bag. “Gimme that bag” he shouted, “You fuckin’ Arab-. He hit him.
Nobody realized that in the meantime the driver had stopped the bus at the pavement of Green Park – just two stops before Buckingham Palace. Martin hit the Arab again. The bus driver jumped towards the two men and started shouting, too. “Let him go, you fuckin’ bastard”, he yelled and pushed Martin back into his seat. Martin was surprised. “Now, if you stand up again, I’ll call the police”, the bus driver said in a threatening voice: “Chouki has paid the same fare as you, pays the same taxes, was born in the same town and has the fuckin’ right to carry whatever he wants to carry”. The driver started sweating. “Listen, Martin. He supports the same football club as you, and he loves his kids just like you – only that he knows who they are, and he’s a nice guy, which is another difference to you”. The driver opened the door.
Chouki had listened carefully and suddenly looked sad. Without a word he took his plastic bag and ran out of the bus. He quickly disappeared into the park, away from all people that could pester him – he seemed to be hiding from something. The bus driver and Martin looked at each other when Chouki’s bomb exploded at a distance. Outside there was a huge fireball. “Damn it”, Martin shouted and started to cry, “I was bloody right”. He looked at the bus driver, who simply shook his head. Some of the others understood.
Mit freundlicher Genehmigung von (c) Jochen Baier