Three of us got off the bus at one stop. The announcer was broken so the driver had to yell out the names of the stops, but he couldn’t pronounce them very well. Kept tripping over the consonants surrounding the vowels, kept forgetting if it was a ‘Street’ or a ‘Road’, ‘Lane’ or otherwise.
“Alright, Hibben Str-Road.” He sighs, “Sorry, folks. Hibben Boulevard.”
The man got off first. Shiny black hair caught the light, the wind entering the bus didn’t even ruffle the slicked back strands. I was about to leave the top seats but the other woman got in my way. She rushed towards the door, slapping her pockets, and turning back for a chrome device left on the seat. As she returns to her seat, I slip in front of her and she hardly notices, oblivious to my movements, caught in her own waves. Three of us got off the bus at one stop, leaving four or more people with the bus driver with halting speech.
We turn left at the corner, not having to wait for the light. After crossing the empty road, we turn left, passing the bars full of old men with nothing better to do than chain-smoke and drink on a Thursday night. They litter the street with white flecks of butts, and I think of the small animals who will be tricked into eating them. The salon lights are out, but the photos of tight curls and styles that wouldn’t survive past the front door illuminate the windows well enough. Passing the entrance to the cemetery, and the tall mausoleum, black gates and railing line the pavement, behind it shadowed gravestones line the grass. The final building is an optician’s store. It opened up about a week ago, the white space is filled with empty glass cabinets, with no eye glasses. At this, the man turns left. So do I, I’m surprised. I’ve never seen him before, but I’m normally home at this point in the evening. The click of the woman’s heels behind me don’t fade as I had expected them to, but follow me down the road.
The moon is above us in the sky but always appears slightly ahead, the mix of houses on the street seem more pushed back than they were before, shaded more darkly by the trees than usual. Looking once more at the moon, I notice that the telephone wires are higher than normal. Or I am lower than normal. Feeling my heart in my shrinking body, I get the funny image that the three of us; the man, the woman and I, are little ducklings. Following our mother moon home. The man’s black hair turns yellow under a streetlight, his face’s shadow is intercepted by a branch and I see him as a fluffy yellow brother. The woman trips. She doesn’t fall, but the noise shocks me. Looking up again, I see the man, hair black as before. You could have been my brother, I want to tell him. His lighter flicks, head bowed, smoke exhaled, I could have loved you. Behind me, my could-be sister’s steps are quick. She is worried, her nervous walk following me, but keeping the same pace and distance all the while. What would help you? I want to ask her, If I knew you, if you trusted me, what could I do? Would she need a cup of tea, a nice talk, a good night out? Does she keep a journal, or have a best friend on speed dial, does she need anyone? My bag is heavy on my back, pushing me down and forward, to talk to the man and ask why his hair is so thickly covered in gel, ask what kind of person he is and would like to be. My thoughts overbalance and my mind topples back to the woman and how she could let me help her, how I could slow her pace and make her relax.
I become frustrated. Awkward. We all know the other exists. We know that we each have a reason to be walking up this long road, had a reason we were on that particular bus, knew that we passed drunk old men, obnoxious posters of hair, a shadowy cemetery and an optician’s with no glasses but too many glass cases. I wanted so badly to talk to them, yell at them. We were breathing the same air, passed down our silent line, we knew each other existed and we did nothing. Ready to shake them, I looked up at the power lines flying higher, the moon edging away from us, ashamedly hiding behind a cloud from her quiet children. Feeling smaller and smaller, blood vessels shrinking, thoughts growing quieter, fingers tingling, toes buzzing.
I cross the road.