The man stood a few inches away from me is a stranger. He asks me for money, and stands uncomfortably close to me. I consciously shift, putting space between the two of us. His name is Dusty, and from what I can tell, he hasn't washed in a while.
I am in Gateshead Metro Station, which isn't exactly the most savoury place in the North. I have been sitting on the floor here for the past two hours, clicking people in and out of the station, using my immense power of 'data collector' to discern whether or not each person is 'encumbered' or simply a commuter. If you ask me, everyone who walks through this place is encumbered in some way. Deep observation, I know.
This is the fourth job I have taken part in this week. I already work promotions at a music venue in town, putting my happy face on while I pretend to befriend people, then 'subtly' sell the brand I work for. I like promotions, because I get to talk to people and I get paid for being good at that, but I sometimes feel a little jaded. I have never thought myself to be a particularly good liar, but just sometimes I think I've sold my soul to pay the rent. I am everything you want me to be. My boss and I don't have the greatest relationship either; we grate on one another somewhat. We have started getting on a little better these days, and he calls me the "fiesty" one, but the look on his face suggests he thinks 'feisty' is another way of saying I am bitter and alone.
But I am not being an Angel right now. I am being a clicker, counting people in 5 minute windows and forgetting faces as soon as I see them. The cold has spread down my thighs, numbing them into a strange, ambiguous feeling. I shift positions every hour and half enjoy the pins and needles creeping up my legs. Dusty came from downstairs, looking almost as if he crawled out of the tunnel itself. He is dirty and unnerving, but I try not to be repulsed. People have been reacting to me all day. My boss even came over and said I looked homeless (which is probably because I was on the floor, and hopefully not because I wasn't wearing any make up and had accidentally worn an entire outfit in navy blue). But if it wasn't for the clipboard, even I would probably assume I was a tramp.
A couple has appeared on the escalator, making out furiously. I screw my nose up as they walk past me, tongues visibly excavating one another's mouths. I am not much of a fan of the graphic PDA, but it seems worse that these two are classic charvers. They don't call it bumping uglies for nothing.
Four hours of sitting on the floor does funny things to your brain. I have never technically been alone, yet the only company I have had is my boss, who sidles over and shares stories which betray his homophobia. I am not the best audience for these, and I almost prefer the company of Dusty, who has reappeared twice and offered to defend me from any freaks or weirdos. Oh the irony. I have taken to people watching, and I realise how many stares I have endured since my arrival. At about three hours, a man comes and offers me a chair. I am slightly embarrassed since I was humming loudly to myself when he appeared round the corner.
The chair makes a nice change, but I am only now noticing the intense pain in my back from all the cold drafts and the concrete floor. I am becoming thoroughly middle aged. People stare at me like a caged animal - I have perfected a morose stare back. The poster opposite me whispers "It felt like a kiss" and the ballerina in the corner of my eye dances when I am not looking.
A woman walks past me sporting a tattoo which says “The End is Nigh”.
Baby, you ain’t kidding.