I looked up at the bus map stuck to the ceiling and traced out the constellation of different stops across the entire city. I knew we were going south east but I could hardly make out the names and places in the density of it all. When you're zipped along like packets of data on a wire, ther is no 'in between', everything is binary. You're either here or you're there. Everything else is waiting.
I guess in a city as big as London, all the destinations are just farther apart and it makes each place you are in all that more valuable. There is of course more variety in a city but at some point the cup overflows and your variety becomes limited because you don't have capacity for the randomness along the way. You are either here or there but I feel it is in unplanned middle that things happen.
Penny looked out the window that was fogging up again. The trees disappeared and she turned to me. She asked me how people manage to have kids in London. I mean, kids! Even being able to chain errands like going to the dentist, post office and groceries was a cause for celebration, imagine having someone that depended on you on top of that.
Penny goes on: When you're a student and you don't have money you ask yourself what's for dinner and sometimes the answer is "sleeps!". But if you have a kid and they ask you what's for dinner, you can't very well say, "sleeps!".
I fucking love Penny.
I tease her a bit about Tinder since I know she's low-key addicted and ask to see her profile as if I was some sort of expert. When she opens her phone I see at least four other dating apps I didn't even know existed. She pulls up her profile and scrolls through as if we were at a poker table and she was folding a losing hand.
She wasn't looking at me anymore. I saw the light of the phone shine up to her face and then a tiny image of her phone reflected in her eyes. Scanning up and down, back and forth in an electronic cycle. Penny at a parkrun. Penny holding a child. Penny dressed up about to go out with friends. Penny compressed and digested. Penny with a smile flattened. Penny as an artifact.
I asked her what was the problem. She's a clever, fairly pretty and oftentimes ridiculous. She could get just about any guy. But Tim, she says, you can't just go with any guy. I knew at once what she meant. When I think about it, the average guy is in general is an idiot whereas the average girl is simply a bit more kind. Ignorance is always the bridesmaid to privilege, I guess.
I know a lot of women who settle for a guy who is good to them. They may not be particularly sharp, intelligent or ambitious but just the very fact that they are kind is a revelation. This makes me depressed. Penny tells me about the guys she's met and I just imagined a sea of faceless insecure man-children quivering in their bodies clutching self-help books on how to understand women and then fucking up completely.