N Quentin Woolf
Ė Big man! he hollers,
while I fold myself through the doorframe like some giant
stick-man. Itís a feat. Youíd expect clicks and cracks as my
bones snap back into shape. Big man, how are you. He doesnít
wait for the reply because he doesnít want the reply. I fall
for it anyway.
Ė Well, thank you, I
Ė You are big guy, he
says. How tall you are. Two metre twenty? Two metre thirty?
The waitresses ignore us.
Look at this, he tells them. This guy is a-big! Two metre
Ė No, not as tall as all
that, I lie. Itís certainly raining hard this morning, isnít
it? I wonder if itíll clear up anytime soon.
Ė You play basketball, he
I donít play basketball. I
donít play anything, for that matter: I am a chain smoker
(worse, since mother came to stay). I am forty-four and all
my joints ache because our couch is too small for a man my
size. This little Turk cook does not imagine I play
basketball. A feedline, comedians call it.
Ė You play basketball,
heís chortling, the way the Jackass goons do while snapping
their balls in mousetraps. It easy for you! You can just put
ball like this! The mime he performs is an extended, hybrid
version of Iím A Little Teapot.
At an estimate, Iíd say
this is the thirtieth time Iíve heard him crack this joke.
A small queue of irritable
pre-commuters has established itself behind me, clicking its
collective tongue at his dumbass badinage. I order coffee.
This is my privilege, surely, my right as a patron: to focus
on the transaction; however I do not place my order for this
reason, but because I feel Iíve now undergone sufficient
height-based ribaldry to have earned my coffee from him.
There are no other coffee-houses on my route to work. The
Turk, who barely comes up to my midriff, has me by the
Ė I make you extra large,
he tells me. Because you are big man. Extra large for extra
The others in the queue
sniff and tap to show their impatience. Perhaps they think I
enjoy this special treatment. Perhaps they think my ego gets
off when Iím called big. Pulling up the lapels of my
raincoat, I sneak a glance at them: they are various to the
eye; they are Londoners. I visualise the aftermath were he
to offer a skinny drink to the secretary with the hunch and
the obvious eating disorder; if he were to say to the black
office worker: hey, I put no milk for you: black for black.
Ė Here you are, Big Man,
he says, giving me the drink, laughing all the while, and I
realise the appellation has crossed into the realm of the
proper noun. I am Big Man. Should I copyright myself and
contact Marvel? He takes my money without pretending to any
courtesy. I have been dismissed.
Out on the mean streets,
caressed by the drizzle, Big Man, in his guise as a
middle-aged facilities manager with a bad back, sets his hat
against the breeze and heads underground.
The London Tube was
engineered by pixies: itís the only explanation. I cram into
a corner seat but get told to get out of the way. My legs,
they mean. I want to tell them I canít get any further out
of the way without actual amputation, but of course I donít,
because people get very scared if a big man seems annoyed.
If Big Man doesnít stay sunny, come what may, heíll be
perceived as a thug. So I stand and try to make my neck fit
to the curvature of the roof, and focus on reading my
graphic novel, praying that the train wonít make any sudden
jerks and kill me outright. People look at me and tut, as
though I am being tall just to be difficult.
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