“Be like.” (On the Scarborough train.)

The three young women are clearly members of the same tribe. It is the tall one that I notice first. She is like a young amazon- built on a different scale to the others, broad backed and strong. A tribute to good food and good genes. She is wearing a short skirt, a green top with a French slogan across it and her long hair is dyed a shade of blonde that is almost white, not platinum blonde- almost grey. A tiny part of it sits in a bun on top of her head. She is a striking young woman. One of her friends has the same hair colour, scraped into a messy bun above a tiny tight dress and the other is very slim, waif-like n a tiny spaghetti string top and shorts clinging to the top of bruised legs. All of them are wearing heavy make up. You see young women like them everywhere. They have each made a portrait of themselves to show the world on their day out at the seaside. The cans of cider in front of them have already kicked off the celebrations but they are not going to make fools of themselves like some of the groups of young men you see drinking on trains. They have more self respect than that. Their flat sneakers might be leopardskin or butterfly print but they are also comfortable. Nobody is in danger of looking daft when their feet hurt. This is a performance and it has to be a good one, both for each other and for anyone else who crosses their path. It is not about ego, it is about being there together and having the confidence to strut your stuff. Their conversation is full of questions, statements, posturing. They are a tight little unit ready for anything. The interaction is relentless. None of them allow themselves a single second alone inside their own head. No wonder one of them flags momentarily.
“That does drain me.”
Proof of belonging is asked for over and over again.
“You know when you get off the train and swing into Boots?”
There are nods- they all do know- of course they do.
As they use their phones they remind me of a perfectly choreographed dance company, aware of each other and moving as a unit. They are constantly telling, recording, showing and there is never any need for anyone to ask or explain what is needed- they all look in the right direction and pose instantly on request. Every gem held out to be admired on a glowing screen is examined and celebrated.They are experts.
“Oh my god.”
“Did you snog him?”
“What did she say?”
Their phones are a part of them. They are using them as a second language and they would not dream of being together without them or putting them away. They are an entertainment, a connection, a distraction, a crutch, a prop.
“We’re high fiving.”
“My God that’s amazing- we’ll take a picture of that later.”
“I’m like what?”
Just before we reach the last stop the young amazon puts her hands up in front of her and shakes them slightly, pulling a face.
“And then literally………”
The waif-like one widens her eyes.
“ECT. Electro convulsive therapy. Yeah, that’s what it is.”
She savours the words, proud that she remembers them.
The one in the little dress gathers her things together as the train slows down.
“Sounds good!”



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