They were the poster couple for a fashion that desperately wished it could be forgotten. She had knitted white wrap-around boots that she'd bought in a little boutique shop in West London for more than her monthly salary. The shop assistant had tsked sadly at her, and asked her which diet she was trying at the time, and she'd sighed just as miserably and talked for an hour about the relative benefits of Cambodian peasant food versus Atkins-assisted cabbage soup and roasted fish bones. They'd compared wrist sizes (she'd won, of course) and she'd left carrying the boots like a prize. She never looked back, and never saw the shop assistant slamming her own head against the glass in the door, trying like a tortured horse to commit suicide in the confines of her stable.
Above the boots she wore burgundy jodhpurs that didn't quite fit around the waist or her bottom, and she held this up to her friends as proof that she was size zero. Her friends, of course, sympathized with her over cocktails at lunch, over canapés in the evening, and now and them over ironic shots in overpriced bars that she thought were edgy and underground. They tittered to themselves as they ordered Old Fashioneds and knocked them back, not seeing the bartender's wince or the looks of pale disgust from people with little enough money to actually want to appreciate a drink. Behind her back though, her friends talked about how over-hard she tried, picking out clothes that didn't fit in an effort to appear thinner. They all agreed that she should just try stripes, though it might make her look like an anaemic prisoner, or that other tragically hip people might try chaining their bikes to her. Which would be terribly ironic and thus raise her hip credibility rather well.
Her coat was fluffy and white and was worn by reality-television stars, bought from the high-end of a ubiquitous high-street chain and so was naturally ironic as she rejected all such trappings and determinedly disavowed any knowledge of those shows, except that other people talked about them. People condemned to eavesdrop on her high-decibel, ear-hurtingly screechy conversations shouted out in uncrowded tube-cars and near-deserted buses marvelled that someone who allegedly knew nothing about the X-Factor could somehow talk about it for twenty-five minutes.
Her t-shirt had been ripped by a girl who'd dated a guy who'd tried bisexuality out with one of Madonna's dancers at her last London show, and so was clearly iconic and only worn on special occasions.
He was sat next to her, wearing black-plastic rimmed spectacles that harkened back to the National Health Service Issue of 1972, only with plain glass in the lenses as he was far too vain to admit to a little short-sightedness. He'd been assured that designers and writers and illustrators wore exactly these kinds of glasses, but hadn't been listening when some wit with actual taste in wine had wandered past with the only good bottle in the kitchen and commented that they wore such things because they couldn't afford anything better. That was the house-party in Camden where they'd met each other, and he was wearing the same pair of skinny jeans again today, because she liked the way his legs looked in them. Other people wondered how legs that thin succeeded in supporting him, especially since he clearly had a paunch better suited to someone fifteen years older and his knees splayed out a little unless he remembered and carefully stood with his feet together.
The paunch was being covered by his baggy white scoop-necked t-shirt that showed his unshaven chest, which to his eternal regret was still as smooth as a hard-boiled egg. He'd experimented briefly with a chest-rug, but the glue holding it in place had come off on his trip to the sauna with an old school-friend, and he'd ended up on his knees feeling around for it under the wooden benches while his friend asked him awkward questions about leprosy. He might have felt better if, after the sauna and in the showers, he hadn't realised that his old school friend had a much bigger penis.
His boots were pleather, but only because he didn't know that there was such a thing and believed that they were genuine leather. His scarf was Gucci, a present from his mother at Christmas, but he lied and told people it was stolen from a tramp lying unconscious in a pool of someone else's vomit in a doorway at New Year.
Together they sat patiently on the tube, waiting for their stop, oblivious to the fact that they'd missed it five minutes ago and were being briskly whisked out to the Zones where people wouldn't control their laughter until they'd walked past, and where blood on the streets was considered to be a fact of everyday life rather than a chilling description found in National Geographic Magazine.