I had just sat down on the train back to Brighton after a very agreeable afternoon with DK and was mulling over the day’s events – watching Random Dance troupe rehearse at the Lilian Baylis theatre, discussing our project for studying creativity and cooking over a light luncheon at Metcalf and a peripatetic brainstorming stroll down Pentonville Road – when in walked two good looking black boys who sat down at the table beside me on the other side of the carriage. They both looked at me and one said “Don’t worry lady, we aint gonna hurt you. We’re nice boys.”
I thought, oh no, here we go. No one else was in the carriage. I looked at them, smiled, picked up my book and pretended to read it. They went back to joshing with each other. Moment over. I glanced at them a bit later and saw paraphernalia on the table; the one nearest me had started rolling a big fat spliff. I returned to looking at my book and then I don’t know what got into me but said in a really pompous joking voice:
“Boyz! Are you going to smoke that on the train?”
They both looked up at me in amazement. A split second of unknowing on both sides. A slow motion Muybridge moment. Then I smiled again and winked at them. Their fear dissipated, they began joking with me.
“This here, is for medicinal purposes.”
“Yes, you do look well”
“That’s why I am so well.”
The banter continued and the one nearest me grinned, showing off a mouthful of gold teeth. I asked him why he had so many for such a young man. He said it was his identity when he was young. And then he started on about his cram and graffiti and being recognized on the trains for his cram. And how he did not smoke on the trains anymore. He was now 31. Over that. Smoked at home. I asked him what cram was – thinking it was some kind of crack – and he said it again, slowly, ‘crime’.
The penny dropped. Then he started talking in a nice English accent – almost public school – and said how people prided him on his English speaking.
After a while he asked me what I was reading. I showed him the cover “How Pleasure Works” by Paul Bloom (a well known Yale psychology professor).
He smiled wryly and said “that’s good coz it is about how pleasure works, man, not what pleasure is. It is all in the mind. Body shows the mind.”
Then he started telling me about the book he was writing on being inside your body. About “the essence”. About what’s inside.
I then read out aloud a bit of the blurb on the back of the book:
“We are attracted, whether we know it or not, to the hidden aspects of things and people… some teenagers enjoy cutting themselves with razors. Some men pay good money to be spanked by prostitutes.”
He was clearly puzzled by this and replied “them men – it is in the mind why they like that kind of thing. Not that they get more pleasure from it.”
He then gave an example of his take on pleasure: “how when you do nice things for a girl, like you buy her chocolates, take her out for a nice meal, it opens her up, makes her feel good and that makes you happy, and you do it to get to her mind, and you get more pleasure and she gets more pleasure.”
I then commented on how Bloom’s book was all about essentialism, the hidden essence of things and read part of a quote from John Locke that was on page 9:
“And thus the real internal, but generally… unknown constitution of things, whereon their discoverable qualities depend, may be called their essence”.
He started nodding, and agreeing. Then he carried on a bit more about the topic of inner self and his essence.
He was well pleased with his pop philosophy on pleasure.
The train stopped at East Croydon and they got up, cleared their debris and the gold toothed one asked me my name, told me his, and said it was a pleasure talking to me. Then on the platform he looked back at me through the window, winked, smiled and did a gesture with his fingers and thumb – as if to say “we connect”.
I do hope he does write his book “Being Inside Your Body”. It would be a match for Prof Bloom’s “How Pleasure Works.”