"Drugs! I couldn't believe it! Right there in the main street -- in broad daylight!"
Another voice responded, softer and too indistinct to be heard by an eavesdropper, but it brought an indignant response from the first speaker.
"Of course I'm sure. He walked up to this man, and handed him some money. The next thing he was stuffing something small and white into his shirt pocket. What else could it have been?"
Saturday afternoon shopping is boring, and train travel is boring, and I was about to slip into my usual semi-conscious fog when the youthful conversation in the seat behind jolted me into wakefulness.
"No! We were just about to go into the restaurant, and there was this man standing on the corner. As soon as he saw him, his whole attitude changed. He went real quiet, and all through lunch he had this silly grin on his face."
More indistinct murmuring.
"Well -- we were supposed to go fishing for the afternoon, and he was taking me out tonight as well, but after luinch he muttered some excuse about having something very impoortant to do, put me in a taxi and sent me home. All he said was 'I'll pick you up tonight at six', but when he calls for me tonight, I'll just politely tell him, 'No thank you.'"
"Of course I was angry -- I was furious. He'd been at me for weeks to go out with him, and when I finally agreed to, he treats me like that."
"Well I don't knolw where he went. How should I know where he went? anyway, I don't care where he went and I don't care if I never see him again."
"What do you mean, 'I don't mean that?' You don't know me as well as you think you do Liz. I only went out with him because he was so persistent. He said interesting things . . . like how he wasn't going to give up trying because I really was important to him. He put flowers on my desk and sent me emails.
"W-e-l-l . . . yes . . .of course I started to like him. Wouldn't you like someone who treated you like that?"
"Yes, all right. I liked him. Are you satisfied?"
"Of course I'm disappointed. It's not often you meet someone that you can really like before you've even been out together -- but if he's into drugs -- well, that's the end."
The second voice conducted an indistinct monologue of its own.
"Yeah! It must be awful to be an addict. And they say it leads to all kinds of awful things -- like crime and stuff, because it all costs so much."
"Yeah! Maybe I could help him. Maybe I could be a real good influence on him and help him to kick the habit! I dunno, maybe I could read up on it and find out how to help junkies, or something. Maybe if he liked me enough he'd take a de-tox, or whatever they call it."
"Yeah -- I suppose I could have been mistaken. Maybe it wasn't drugs at all. But why would he buzz off so suddenly like that, instead of taking me fishing like we planned? Gee! What if he's an undercover cop?"
"Well, he could be. I know he works at my office but he's only been there a few weeks, and maybe the job's his cover. Maybe he had to leave suddenly in the middle of our date because he had to report to his superiors of something. Imagine being married to a cop! Wouldn't that be something?"
"Well, you'd get to hear all the inside info . . . all the exciting stuff that goes on behind the scenes. There's stuff that the public never hears about you know -- but married to a cop . . ."
"Don't be stupid! Of course I'm not thinking about getting married. I was just saying, that's all."
"Yeah. I guess I do really like him a lot. Maybe I'll go out with him again. But what if he's really a crook?"
At this point there occurred some sounds of movement ande rustling of packages from the seat behind me, and my two youthful co-travellers made their way to the exit doors. I followed them with my eyes as they left the carriage, impatient in my curiosity to catch a glimpse of their faces. They stepped down onto the platform and turned. One was demure with long brown hair and a sweet smile. The other had a collection of rings in one ear, and I caught a glimpse of short purplel hair under her black felt hat. I chuckled inwardly, remembering the fads of my own youth, and I mentally thanked them for enlivening my homeward journey.
Searching for my rail ticket, I remembered the note left on the fridge door that morning. "Bringing Sarah home tonight," was all it said. Another new girlfriend, I thought, being brought home for Mum to give the once over. I'll be so glad when he finally makes a choice and settles down. But plenty of time for that . . . he's so young.
I had been home only half an hour when they arrived. Yes . . . you guessed it . . . in walked the purple hair and earrings! The significance of the overheard conversation began to overwhelm me, and just as I was imagining myself spending the night in cold sweats over my seventeen-year-old son's drug addiction, he drew her to his side and took something small and white from his shirt pocket.
"Here," he said, "this is for you." He handed her a small, flat, white box, and it contained a friendship ring. "I'm sorry we didn't go fishing this afternoon, but the guy I bought this from was so late getting it to me that I didn't have any other time to get it engraved." he was humble as he slipped it on her finger. "I hope you like it."
I sank into the nearest chair, thankful that they were so engrossed in each other that they failed to notice my slight nervous breakdown. Later, as I prepared our meal, it was a relief to reflect upon my Saturday afternoon, and to marvel at the impact of something small and white.