On a long bus ride into the past, watching Riga Center slip by, I become aware of the two voices from the seat behind me. He speaks American English, slow, measured, clearly enunciated. She speaks language-school English, without undue inflection, practiced.
– Riga is a very nice city.
– Yes, very nice.
– I saw a sign somewhere, on the Maxima, I think. It said 00-24.
– Yes, it’s means it’s open 24/7.
– So, if it says 8-22…
– Yes, of course.
– Once I walked 2 hours to buy a book. I will show you where; it’s on this line.
– You walked 2 hours?
– I wanted just to walk.
– I hope it was a good book.
– Look, there it is, the bookstore.
– There’s a bus with a thing to connect to wires overhead.
– Yes, we call them trolley busses.
– In Paris and London, they have subways.
– They wanted to build a subway here…
– But the electricity is in the rails, not overhead, like here.
– But it was not popular.
– Oh, look, there’s one on rails. They stopped those in San Francisco. Too hard to maintain.
– My ex-wife wants 50% of everything. She will only get 25%.
– Graffiti. That means it’s not a good place.
– Yes, outskirts, not so nice.
– No, outskirts.
– No. City, suburbs, then country.
– No. Outskirts.
– Nothing to do out here, I guess.
– No, it’s nice.
My stop, time to get off. I can’t resist turning around. I see a grey man in his 50s, either fashionably unshaven, or just lazy, can’t tell. Beside him is a rather plump young girl, attractive, a determined look on her pleasant face. I hope it works out. I’m not very optimistic.