The Proposition: A young woman/female, but more like a man or at least mannish/masculine/butch in her fearless approach to men on the train. She is a probability-boxer-talker or talker-probability-boxer.
She wore a hoodie with LSE Boxing on the back. Her first ‘target’ was a very obese man, dark hairy arms and a very dark five o’clock shadow of a beard, straight oily shoulder length black hair, but soft brown eyes. He had the physique of a darts player who are often obese – and their steadiness of gaze. A bear type. She entered the coach and sat down opposite the giant as if they knew one another. But they probably didn’t –he introduced himself at the end when he got off at Slough – “I’m Jay.” “I’m Marianne.” “Stay awake.”
His business was the subject of the conversation – almost without any preliminaries. Perhaps being very fat, although his face was pleasant enough, he was flattered to be approached/addressed by any woman. He works with probability, odds – it sounded like some sort of betting system. “We manipulate data. It’s a mathematical system.” He tried to retreat from further explanations by saying it was complicated. She: “Try me. I just finished my PhD in probability.” He was hooked – no turning back. As soon as he got off, she continued almost without pause, socially/mentally freight train hopping with the next targets. They were two young men – younger than Jay the Bear, possibly filling out the crossword puzzle. She simply went on speaking to them as if they were part of a flowing seamless Platonic series of male embodiments, the second prefigured in the first – this time dispensing information about a festival, maybe helping out with one of the crossword spellings, explaining why the train stopped before the station. The two young men had come in shouting and boisterous. They calmed down quickly next to her. She was more the aggressor than they. Maybe they believed she was some kind of boxing expert, a black belt pugilist or the like. “I was out with my boxing club tonight. Next week I’ll know my grade for my PhD.” Young man next to her: “Will it be good?” She: “Yes. I spoke to my tutor already.” The boy was so impressed he moved closer to her and asked permission to hug her as a farewell gesture. He banged on the train window from the outside on the platform and shouted, “I’ll ring you.” I wondered how he would know her phone number.
We were next. All she asked me were the directions to the toilet and then if she could leave her rucksack with me while she went off looking for them. I: “Sure.” She alighted at the posh station Twyford. As the train pulled out we saw her talking to an older potbellied white haired man who looked like the brother of the now retired famous Twyford platform conductor. But he didn’t have his long beard and walrus moustache. In profile she really did look like a boxer – with a face that had been in the ring on the receiving end of some hard punches – a strongly indented nose, unnaturally pointing upward, a super ski-slope job. From the front she looked more waifish – straggly long hair of a mousy colour, tucked behind slightly cauliflowered ears. Her jeans were very tight – white flab hanging over her belt – but not too much.