Overheard Dialogue: When the Context Isn’t All

I’m not one for catchprases, by and large, although I suppose I do have a few, one of which is ‘the context is all’. I think it’s a handy line to wheel out when the occasion calls for it, even if I don’t necessarily agree with it. That I don’t always hold the opinions I express is something that some people seem to find problematic, but that’s a whole other issue. Anyway, one thing I really enjoy and collect avidly, is overheard dialogue. Some of it I’ve managed to use in my writing, although much of it I simply cannot imagine incorporating in a million years.

Perhaps perversely, it’s this unusability that appeals to me when it comes to overhearing fragments of other people’s conversation. Being fragmentary, the exchanges are received without any context, and often I’ll find myself wondering what possible context could ably and appropriately frame them. I find this game an amusing distraction when the mood takes.

Of course, sometimes, overheard snippets don’t need a context or are perfectly self-contained, and don’t require any kind of ponderance. They’re gems in themselves, and even if they can’t be used as material, they exemplify the absurdity of life. Take, for example, the two conversations I happened to overhear pieces of on Saturday night, on my way to and from the pub. It was a cold night, and snow had fallen heavily and was lying around four inches deep. A general quietness had descended as most had chosen to remain indoors, save for a crazy few – and myself.

The latter conversation was, by all accounts, grim, and pure Jeremy Kyle. A drunken not-quite couple of indeterminate age (somewhere between late thirties and early fiftes) were loudly parting company in the street. By which I mean they were involved in a lengthy slanging match. Both were equally vocal, with the woman informing the man that he was a ‘fucking scumbag’ and that she was going to report him for rape. ‘You’re gonna get ten years fer rape’, she told him – and half the neighbourhood, repeatedly.

‘You’re not worth a wank!’ he retorted. ‘And don’t try phoning me neither.’

‘’Ave you nicked my fuckin’ phone? You’re a fucking scumbag, a rapist and a thief!’ she hollered. By this point, a railway track divided the pair. Yet still they continued.

‘Aye, fuck off. So are you coming round later?’

Ok, so perhaps I might be able to use that at some point, and the context is more or less self-explanatory and doesn’t require a great deal of imagination. It is, after all, a pretty mundane scenario, sadly.

Conversely, the altogether briefer exchange I overheard on the way out was of an entirely different nature, and was a prime example of dialogue that one simply could not make up. In the driving snow, two voices came from behind me.

‘I’m freezing,’ moaned the female voice.

‘I’m not,’ replied the male voice bluntly.

As the pair of them cycled past, he more or less dressed for the weather, she without so much as a coat and the waistband of her CK undergarment riding high above her jeans, she called to him, ‘Yeah, but you’re wearing, like, three pairs of jackets!’

No wonder he wasn’t feeling the cold.

 

bike_chav

A chav on a bike, before it snowed. He’s nice and warm. Must be all those tracksuit tops and the comfort of having a baseball bat tucked subtly inside his clothing.

 

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Liberator! Part 9

Tim was spending a lot of time as he pleased, but was far from being a man of leisure. Things were shaping up on the allotment, but he was a long was off being self-sufficient. All too often, he found the temptation to do something else less boring instead too great, and would take himself off on long, meandering cycle rides or sit in the pub on his own with a book or a magazine, or even a newspaper. He’d never been a big reader before, but was starting to find it an enjoyable and stimulating pastime, although he preferred non-fiction books and still found the news as depressing as hell. Still, it only reinforced his belief that what he was doing was for the best. The world was sick and he wanted no part in it.

Amy saw things differently though. Tension had been mounting and the more Tim refused to join her on her social climbing excursions and uncomfortable engagements with people neither he nor she really liked, the more irritated she became.

It all came to ahead one Wednesday evening. Amy had been working late and Tim hadn’t been working at all. It had begun with Amy’s daily harangue about him getting another job, and he’d had to admit that money was beyond tight. His suggestion that they sell some of Amy’s DVDs and unwanted clothed had incensed her and she had given him a piece of her mind with a few home truths expressed in the most straightforward of terms.

‘You don’t get it, do you?’ he had said.

‘You’re right, I don’t. I don’t know what the hell’s wrong with you,’ he had snapped in reply. ‘You need your head checked. You’re not living in the real world!’

‘No,’ he’d replied in a measured tone, solid with confidence and conviction, ‘I’m part of the solution. Your way of living, following the herd, running on empty and perpetual stress, as though you’re actually gaining from it, is all wrong. Success – material success – is an illusion. No-one sees it because they’re scared.’

‘Don’t talk like that, you sound like you’re mad!’ Any had screamed.

Tim had shaken his head. ‘If only you knew’, he had sighed. ‘Look, you’re off to a party for Paul’s birthday tonight, right? Why are you going? You feel obliged,’ he had lectured. ‘You can’t say no because you can’t be seen to not be there. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, right? But what’s in it for you, really? You’ll make like you’re having a great time, but it’s all a complete lie. You think he’s boring and his girlfriend’s an idiot. Although to be honest, I think you’re jealous of her because she’s on a higher salary and likes everyone to know it.’

‘Look, I can’t be with you if you’re going to be such a prick,’ Amy had snarled. ‘I’ll be back for my stuff later.’ Then she turned tail and walked out, slamming the door behind her.

Tim’s face flushed, a combination of humiliation and anger. Fuck her. If Amy couldn’t get on board with what he was doing, and support him in making a better life for himself in an insane world based on facades and superficial exchanges devoid of contact or humanity in a culture of hyperinformation, he didn’t need her. It was her loss. One day she would realise he was in the right.

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk