Not feeling well, I had boarded a tram. I was slowly but contentedly being trundled into town. Two stops later, a middle-aged couple climbed in. They sat down behind me.
She sat at the window and he next to her. He complained about the fare. It had gone up considerably. He mentioned a price which had gone out of fashion a decade ago.
She twittered along happily, not paying much attention to his complaints. They must have been married for a while.
His moaning had shifted to his job. She mentioned her jolly volunteer part-time job. Whenever she heard a familiar name in between his complaints, she said something nice.
She was on her way to shop in town. He was on his way to work. I was becoming very informed about his colleagues, projects, department. His opinions were pretty negative.
In between, he felt fit to correct and belittle her. No, she was not using the right word. She meant this word. She had used the wrong word. I started to feel uncomfortable.
No, she did not pronounce that word correctly. She should have said … and what did it mean? If she didn’t know it, she had better not use it. My cheeks started to burn.
The focus shifted from his job to their early evening plans. He would arrive home late. No problem, she twittered happily, she would receive their guests.
He wanted to know if it was coffee and tea first. No, she’d planned a buffet with several salads and finger food. It would all be ready on the table.
He wanted to know how late the first guests arrived. Everybody was coming straight from work. Her friend would arrive first to help her. Wasn’t that nice?
He wanted to know how many guests were coming. She rattled off a list. She was looking forward to seeing old friends. She was looking forward to meeting new ones. She was certain Charles would arrive late. The dear always did.
Her husband grumbled about Charles, then corrected her when she got a colleague’s job title wrong. No, another person did not have a BA, but was a university professor. He belittled her some more. My cheeks burned brighter.
At last, he realised everybody would be there but him. He became upset. His meeting was important and he couldn’t just stalk out! Well, it was a house-warming and she’d show them their new house on her own. What fun!
He had an apoplexy: “Not the wine-cellar! I don’t want them anywhere near the wine-cellar! You can drag them all over the place, but not down the wine-cellar! I don’t want any of them there. Do you understand! Certainly not Charles. I know what he’s like. I don’t want him there. You keep them out, do you hear! Especially him. I don’t want any of them in my wine-cellar. I don’t want them fiddling bottles!”
He was still fulminating when they got off. Not paying any attention, she chattered on happily about where she was going, what she was going to buy, how she was going to spend his money. The tram trundled on, as he stomped off to the left and she practically skipped into town.
Apart from being relieved I wasn’t married to the guy – not that it would have lasted long – I wondered what on earth was in his wine cellar. Bet Charles would uncork a few bottles – till their owner arrived.