Id come out the sauna and I was cooling off on one of the
wooden chairs that smells of damp sick. It was a Friday afternoon and Id
been training at the gym. The man and woman who knew each other and had talked
all the time I was trying to sweat the frustrated thoughts out of my head came
and sat on the chairs next to me. I couldnt work out if they were a
couple in the shagging sense or friends or if they looked similar enough to be
brother and sister. He was stocky, flabby belly showing slightly, pressurising
the elastic waistband of his royal blue, thigh length, shiny trunks. His dark,
tight-curled hair was patchily grey and neatly trimmed. His face was blandly
handsome and he spoke little.
His female companion was tall, as tall as him at least, and dark
haired too. Her hair was cut short, and the fact that it was wet made it
shapeless. She was slim, with bony awkwardnesses at the angle of elbow and
knee. Her face was thin, and the moisture made it look pale and stressed. There
was little colour in her lips and eyes, and even the saunas heat had
raised only a reluctant, grey pinkishness on her cheeks. She could probably
have managed to be kind to a child.
They were talking. She did most of it, but he frequently
contributed opinions, most of which she didnt share, and then changed
them and agreed with her. I couldnt work out if this was because he was
stupid or not. His eyes had a dullness to them that indicated he was probably
too thick to just want a quiet life. She presented her views as certainties,
and her eyes were not democratic.
I lay back on the wooden seat and tried to relax. A young Asian
man came in, dressed in trunks, ready for a sauna. He had a fashionable, spiky
haircut and a kind, distinctive face with large eyes. He was small and slim,
his skin was a very dark brown. He wandered aimlessly around the room amongst
the plastic plants, seeking something, feet slapping on the wet tiles. There
was no employee at the reception desk and he seemed to want to ask something.
He kept coughing deeply and making rasping noises at the back of his throat.
The wooden chairs we were sitting on were opposite the single
shower cubicle. The door of the cubicle allowed you to see how people using the
shower arranged their feet to avoid standing on the grill of the drain. The
young man, after opening the glass door that lead into the swimming pool and
not finding what he was looking for, flapped over to the shower cubicle and
entered it. His feet moved to an unnatural width apart, and he hawked and spat
into the drain. There was a splat as the globule hit the drain cover. He left
the cubicle with a vague grin on his face.
As hed spat, the woman had stopped talking about her boss
and fallen silent, an inquisitive and annoyed look on her face. She tried to
attract her companions attention and direct it towards the spitting Asian
with several aggressive eyebrow motions. He raised his own, and lowered them,
with uncertain resignation. She started to mouth words, little silent burps of
anger. His eyebrows stayed raised and he twitched his lips. She whispered and I
heard, He shouldnt do THAT in there. As the Asian lad walked
past us and back towards the swimming pool he smiled uncertainly at the
womans look of hatred.
You shouldnt do that in here, love, she said,
speaking like women who prefer to be thought of as kind do to thick family
members about whom theyre embarrassed. He grinned back, his English
wasnt very good yet. You shouldnt do THAT in HERE. She
pointed to places on the floor for emphasis. THAT - HERE. He smiled
and said hello. You should do THAT, in the TOILET. She pointed to
different places on the floor. He smiled again and asked, Where is?
You should do that in the toilet. In the toilet.
He smiled and made an uncertain interrogative mouth movement,
then barely shaped the words, Where
is? holding his right hand
outward with the palm up and the fingers vertical. She looked hard at him, then
turned away and shook her head at her companion. I tried to smile at the Asian
lad, but he didnt notice. He walked over the wet tiles and through the
glass door into the swimming pool.
That were disgusting, the woman said.
Yeah, her companion agreed, his forehead creasing
where the strain of his raised eyebrows seemed to be telling.
Mind you, thats typical of them, int it.
I got up and went back into the sauna. I pissed through that
drain grill nearly every visit.
I always ticked White British
on Equal Opportunities Monitoring forms.