Strangers on a Train

In which The Author overhears a conversation

On Wednesday I had to go to the university to submit a piece of work. I caught the 1351 train from Aberdare, and immediately found myself in the vicinity of two minor characters from an Irvine Welsh novel. These particular specimens of carbon-based life were sitting a couple of seats behind me – but that didn’t matter. By the time I got off the train in Treforest, I knew their names and a sizeable chunk of their back stories, and could have probably got even more information if I’d really been bothered to listen.
Let’s call them Wayne and Waynetta, for the sake of argument.
The whole carriage was privy to their expletive-laden conversation for half an hour or so, which seems to reinforce what I first hinted at in ‘Inhibitions and Exhibitions‘.
From what I was able to gather, they’d met while waiting for the train to arrive. There’s a full hour between the previous train and the one I’d caught, so they’d had plenty of time to get acquainted after Waynetta had blagged a can from Wayne on the platform.
Wayne had just come from the court in Aberdare. I don’t know what he’d been charged with, or what the circumstances leading up to his appearance had been, but the outcome was clear: he’d been tagged, and therefore had to be back in Cardiff by 6 p.m. to avoid breaking his curfew.
Waynetta had spent the night in the cells of Aberdare Police Station, and had been sent on her way in time to catch the train – whereupon she and Wayne had crossed each other’s paths. She and her boyfriend had been arrested the previous night, for an unspecified offence; he’d had been taken to Ton Pentre Police Station, in the next valley.
Wayne was phoning friends to arrange to meet him in Cardiff before his bail conditions kicked in. Waynetta had no credit on her mobile, so she borrowed Wayne’s phone. She wanted to ring Ton Pentre to make sure that her boyfriend hadn’t already been released. She was heading to Pontypridd, and from there to Penrhys to score some heroin before heading home.
From his voice alone, I guessed that Wayne was a fairly average-sized young chap – maybe mid-to-late twenties. Similarly, I pictured Waynetta as being about Carys’s size, and a similar age to him. So it came as a shock when they were showing each other photos of their children – especially her ‘oldest’, who was 22! That put in her late thirties or forties – maybe even my age.
We learned that Waynetta’s boyfriend was a hard man, who’d made a lot of enemies over the years. He’d recently acquired a gun. Wayne’s ears pricked up at this. Apparently someone had been threatening his son, and he wanted to get hold of a gun to deal with the person in question. They exchanged phone numbers and I’ve no doubt that at some time in the future, a deal will be done between these elements of low life. Wayne said he recognised her from somewhere in the Rhondda. He described himself as a very small fish in a big pond. Now he was swimming amongst the big fish, and he loved it. Waynetta told him some more about her life, and confided that she was very smart and streetwise.
‘People like us should be ruling the fucking world,’ she claimed at one point – and I winced at the very idea.
In Pontypridd, Waynetta got off the train. She was tiny, possibly in her mid-forties, and clearly bore the signs of a long drug habit. In fact, she’d seemed pretty high all the way down. When she was out of sight, Wayne breathed an audible sigh of relief. He took out his phone again and rang a mate, telling him all about the ‘smacked-up madwoman’ he’d had to endure for an hour or so. I got off at the next stop, glad to leave them to their own devices again.
The previous week we’d been talking about Evolutionary Psychology, whereby the genes which are best suited to survival in the world are the ones which propagate themselves over time. I have to ask myself this: what sort of world is it when criminals and junkies like these two churn out kids by the thousand on estates all over the country, while good, intelligent, hard-working people put off having families for the sake of their careers, or just can’t start a family at all?
It seems to me that the ratchet of Darwinian selection has slipped, if people like the offspring of Wayne and Waynetta are going to inherit the Earth …

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