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Common People

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Sophie-May hit pause, unhooked her earphones and coiled the wire around her iphone before dropping it into her over-sized handbag. She was particularly excited about today’s project as it was quite different from the usual story she worked on. She had been approached by a fellow student who wanted to give an interview for the paper to try to reduce the amount of gossip surrounding her.

The interview was to take place in a busy café where Sophie-May had become quite a regular. She enjoyed sitting in a corner with her black coffee and people-watching and often wasted whole afternoons there. When she arrived, her interviewee was already inside, sitting at a round table in the centre of the café.

“Hi, I’m Sophie-May, from the uni newspaper” she said as she dumped her bag on the floor and started to take off her parka.

“Hi, I’m Maria.”

“I know” Sophie-May replied and immediately began to blush. Maria just smiled. She knew that most people at the university already knew who she was.

Excusing herself, Sophie-May made her way towards the counter to order her drink and joined the slow queue. Although she couldn’t put her finger on anything in particular, the café felt different today. Absent-mindedly playing with her necklace, she scanned the room for any interesting characters as she always did. Her gaze fell on a man in his mid-twenties sitting near the window listening to music through old-fashioned headphones that were connected to a Walkman cassette player. Deciding he was just another hipster, she continued to look around the room. A young boy was running between the tables with one arm stretched above his head.

“To  infinity… and beyond!” he shouted repeatedly. His mum caught Sophie-May’s eye and smiled.

“It’s from that new film about the toys that come to life. He can’t get enough of it!” Sophie-May returned her smile and turned away, wondering if another Toy Story had come out of if the boy and his mum were just really late to the party.

When she returned to the table, Sophie-May set her coffee down, pulled out her notebook and pen and said “As this was your idea I assume you have something in particular you want to say. Just start your story from the beginning and I’ll ask any questions as they come to me”.

“Well, I just wanted to clear the air really. Lots of people have been coming up to me and asking me questions and even more have been talking behind my back so I thought if I spoke to you we could get everything out in the open and just carry on as normal.” She smiled and laced her fingers together around her large cappuccino mug.

“Obviously, everyone knows my dad is rich and famous and blah blah blah. Sorry, I shouldn’t be that blasé, it’s just a bit boring now and I just wish everyone wouldn’t make such a big deal out of it. I’m just a student now like everybody else.”

“What are you studying?” Sophie-May interjected.

“Sculpture. I’ve always loved art and painting just isn’t really me. It feels too passive; I want to be more hands-on.”

“How are you finding the course? And what about university in general? It must be quite a culture shock.”

“The course is incredible and I love every minute of it. You’re right though, it’s been a bit of a shock to the system. My dad said I should pack it in and go back to Greece. Yet here I am, back for the second semester.”

“So why did you decide to stay?” Sophie-May asked, looking up from her notebook.

“I met a boy.” Maria let out a coy giggle and tucked a strand of her dark brown bob behind her ear. “I was a bit forward actually. I’d seen him in a pub and thought he looked like a ‘proper student’. He just seemed so laid back and casual, you know? I thought he’d be able to show me how I was meant to be living instead of being daddy’s little rich girl. So I bought him a rum and coke and told him as much.”

“What did he say?”

“He just shrugged and said he’d see what he could do.” She laughed.

“So, were you right? Did he help you settle into a more laid back way of life?”

“Well he showed me where the supermarket was. It was great fun. He told me to pretend I’d got no money so I just bought loads of baked beans and cheap bread. Can you imagine?” She laughed again. “He came with me to look around a flat. I live above a shop now. If only my father knew! He said I should get a job as well but I haven’t got around to that yet. I don’t know how students find time for jobs. We just generally had some fun. We played pool and he taught me how to roll and smoke cigarettes, or ‘fags’ as he calls them.” Her smile faded and she looked down into her drink.

“What’s the matter?” Sophie-May asked.

“I haven’t heard from him for a while. Last time I spoke to him, I invited him out to the pub but he said he couldn’t because he was skint. He said I didn’t need to go to the pub anyway and that they only dance and drink and screw because there’s nothing else to do. He said I didn’t understand what that was like and it was alright for me because if I called my dad I could be on the first plane out of here. That sort of brings me back to why I’m doing this interview. If even he thinks that, what must everyone else think? I don’t want to be treated specially, I’m not just going to pack it all in and run back to daddy. I want to get my head down, live like common people, get on with it and get my degree. Is that too much to ask?” Maria said, looking up at Sophie-May with a frown crinkling her pretty forehead.

When the interview was over and Sophie-May was back at the university newspaper office, she tried to contact the boy Maria had spoken about. He declined an interview. All he said was “Everybody hates a tourist. Especially when they think it’s all such a laugh”. She wrote the article and handed it to her editor, hoping Maria didn’t regret the interview. It might not achieve what she had expected. Sophie-May had tried her best, but Maria didn’t come off brilliantly. To paraphrase the boy, nobody likes someone treating their way of life as a bit of a fun experiment.

Pulp - Common People
Album: Different Class, 1995

 

Written by 1st year BA Writing & English student: Sophie May
Illustrated by 3rd year BA Illustration student: Emily Knight
 
 

 

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