In which Gemma, Boots Woman and Wide Man leave my life






I’d thought plenty about how much I’ll miss my flatmates when I move house this weekend, but it’s only just occurred to me how much I’ll miss all the other people. The background people, who fill up our little patch of North London like faithful extras on Holby City. The ones I’ve never actually spoken to, but who have become completely woven into the fabric of my daily life over the past three years.

Most of these people I see at the bus stop. I find bus stops are generally perfect microcosms of the larger world, if you look hard enough, or are determined enough to use the word “microcosm”. And I’m so attached to all my regular bus-buddies that I’ve given them my own names.

There’s Generic Gemma, who probably isn’t called Gemma at all but looks SO like a Gemma that if I found out her actual name I wouldn’t believe it. Gemma is so generic that it’s actually become her defining characteristic. I imagine she likes ready salted crisps the best.

There’s Boots Woman, a well-dressed lady who had a pair of studded ankle boots so nice that I spent the best part of three days combing the internet until I found identical ones and bought them. Then every time I wore the boots and she was at  bus stop, I would hide behind the bin in case she saw them, realised I’d copied her, and pitied me.

There’s Wide Man, so-called not because he’s especially enormous, or because he seems like a wily urban wheeler-dealer (he doesn’t), but because he is a very unusual and specific shape - starting off pretty average at the top and then becoming very wide around the hips, with short little legs, giving him the overall appearance of a walking Weeble. He also has distinctive facial hair, of the kind normally seen on television magicians and frequenters of fantasy role play gaming societies. I like Wide Man, because he is always there. Same brown suit, same rucksack, reassuringly consistent. Wide Man wobbles, but he doesn’t fall down.

Of course, the best thing about my imaginary relationships with these characters is the tiny hope that maybe they have imaginary relationships with me too. I’d like to think I’m “Belvita Girl”, after my breakfast biscuit habit (and the crumbs that remain in my hair afterwards), or perhaps “The Traffic Maverick”, after my stubborn refusal to walk 20 foot up the road to use the zebra crossing. I could cope with “Bag Rummager” or even “Bunions”.

But if none of them even notice I’ve gone next week, well, that would be quite hurtful. Three years of unspoken, imaginary friendship has got to count for something.