We’re all waiting for the bus: The girl who wears rubber boots through the whole winter, the guy who works at the Ruby Tuesday’s, the eight-year-old kid who takes the bus to his school five blocks up. Each morning a group of us, give or take a few, come out here and hover around the bench that ices over in the winter, burns through fabric in the summer. It is useless for any purpose other than hovering.
The guy with the stubble and the red Columbia jacket is late today. He’s always running late, his eyes droopy and his hair a mess that he covers with a hat when he catches his reflection in the window of the Indian restaurant behind us. He and his fiancee have usually been going at it until two or three in the morning, and not in the good way. Not in the way you’d expect a handsome couple such as them to be going at it. I only know this because he’s been getting more frantic, and once I heard him on the phone with who I gathered was his sister. I thought, How sweet, that he was on the phone with his sister. I imagine she lives in the Midwest and stirs pots of boiling soup while her baby brother tells her about the falling apart of his engagement. I imagine picking up those pieces for him. I’d love to meet that sister some day, to have her tell me that she’s so glad I came along when I did. That her brother was going through rough times and she’s never seen him so happy.
I’m listening to a song about a girl telling someone she loves that he should probably start writing love letters to someone else. She’s giving him permission and it sounds sweet, but there’s also a bit of accusation in it, like she expects this is what he wants and she’s blaming him for it. Even though she’s the one telling him to move on, telling him she can’t be in this relationship.
The bus is a block away from us; I’m bummed Stubbly Columbia won’t make it today. I love watching the back of his head rock with the bus, the music in my ear like a soundtrack. Then there he is, rounding the corner with a coffee cup in his hand. He’s running so fast that the coffee’s spilling on his ungloved hand, and I wince, wondering how hot it must feel.
You getting on? the bus driver says.
I step onto the bus in answer. Wait, that guy’s coming, too.
What guy? The driver goes to close the door, but Stubble is so close, so droopy-eyed and covered in hot coffee that I can’t let him just miss the bus. Not today. He was probably up all night, and the stress of being late to work on top of falling out of love with a woman you once thought you’d marry, it’s just too much.
Wait! I know I shouldn’t do it, but I grab the driver’s hand on that lever and I squeeze tight.
Hey, lady! What are you doing? He yells other things, and I’m yelling things and we’re in this dance until Stubble climbs in behind me.
He’s out of breath and trying to shake the coffee off of his arm, so it takes him a moment to realize what he’s walked into.
Get off this bus, right now! The driver has my hand gripped in his in what could be mistaken for a moment of passion, out of context. I retrieve my hand from his, straighten my skirt against my shaking legs. Stubble has stepped into the bus behind me and I step off, back onto the sidewalk. The adrenaline is still in my blood, and the wisps of a migraine stir in the top of my skull.