I made a feeble attempt to read more of the book in my hands. Always a book in hand, or close by, this was a second go at Les Fleurs Du Mal, but the pages were still blank. I didn’t want to be preoccupied with Hattie. I would have rather been overthinking about something else, something positive, but was there anything positive? I felt off.
I made a conscious effort to concentrate on something different. I thought of being somewhere far away from New York City buses and people. I pictured myself snug comfortably in a hammock, content with Baudelaire and Irish whiskey, content with solitude. I wished I had a place to focus on all the things I enjoyed. A place to read all the books that reached out to me from their shelves.
Other people read on the bus. Some read from tablets or devices which I hated and a few others read books, actual books made of paper and ink. Relics. Can you believe some people preferred books? Weird, right? Old school.
Why was I always so distracted? Why must my mind wander? My mind reeled through dimensional tangents of my perception. The past. My daydreams. Reality. It all blended together in my mind. I was hardwired for tangents. That was how I was put together. My mind was all over the place.
The bus moved along, more and more crowded with each stop. An attractive woman, almost as beautiful as Glory, stood near the back exit. I noticed those kinds of things. She had long black hair that looked incredibly soft, and I felt the urge to touch it though I was not within reach. I wanted to pull it. I spied kissable lips. She reminded me of an actress but I couldn’t recall the movie. She stood in a light blue button down with a black skirt that halted at the knees. Blau. Schwartz. She wielded an umbrella though there was no rain in the forecast.
I double checked the weather on my phone. I had four missed calls and a bevy of texts that I was going to ghost. You had to give credit to my friends, they were not letting go without a fight. I was right, no rain. I liked that she was prepared. I imagined the skies opening up and rain pouring down on us, cats and dogs, and the two of us under her umbrella. I felt her lips on mine, the chill of the rain and silky thighs as I ran my hand up her skirt inside my filthy mind.
I wanted to write it down. I tend to want to write everything down. Chronicle all my thoughts, good or bad. I pictured Glory in the scenario instead of the strange woman on the bus, but I’ve written about her already. The temporary muse exited the bus through the back doors.
The bus would make its stops. People exited and others boarded, but people didn’t typically step on through the rear. A man in his forties, who looked like he smelled bad, snuck on. The man was dressed similar to Sonny’s father, maybe he was a mechanic or a janitor. I thought of the bedroom door and smiled to myself. The man had hoisted a purple five gallon pail that looked like it had been used for target practice. Lila is the German word for purple but I didn’t know it then. I thought about Glory, how to say colors in German, Vietnamese spring rolls and how badly I’d eaten my cuticles. My fingers hurt. The pail had a word written on duct tape on its side, flammable. The commuters weren’t aware yet, they were distracted by conversation, plotlines, pulsating earbuds and daydreams of their own, but I realized the bus hadn’t moved since the man got on.
“Hey,” said the bus driver, a behemoth who stood up, and pointed at the man. He now had the full attention of the commuters though most were confused as to what was transpiring. “Hello. You. Yes, you. Get off the bus.”
“I no get off,” said the man, adding some remarks in Spanish that I didn’t understand but could probably guess it wasn’t nice. “I paid.”
“No, you didn’t. You did not pay. Plain and simple. Get off the bus right now. Even if you had paid, which you didn’t, I would not let you bring chemicals onto my bus. Got it? Comprende? Get off the bus.”
“I want to go home.”
“I want to go home, too, motherfucker,” said some woman I couldn’t see.
“Get. Off. The. Bus.”
“No,” the man protested and stamped his foot.
“Get off the fucking bus,” the driver yelled, livid. “We will not move until you leave. Get comfortable, everyone.” He sat back down, and killed the engine while keeping his eyes on the man in his rearview.
“We all have places to be. Get off, man.”
“Get the fuck out of here.”
“I’m not missing my sonogram cause of this shit.”
“Fuck this white dude. Just drive.”
People were all screaming angrily, but most were in agreement, the consensus was for the man to get off the bus. There will always be those who miss the root cause of problems and make it about something else, something superficial, something irrelevant.
I sat there in the middle of the arguing, looking at the other commuters, and absorbed the collective disdain. I doubt I was the only human that felt disgusted by our genus.
The lady next to me leaned in and said, “Look at how people behave. It’s shameful. I think New York City has the most idiots per capita. God help us.”
“Ever read Hitchens?”
“What happened to your face, love? Who hurt you?”
“I wouldn’t know where to begin.”
“I know what you mean. You need a cold compress and a nice hot bowl of soup. That’s what you need.”
The man had not budged. Odd how a stubborn person reminded me of Hattie, but most things brought her to mind. My consciousness was constantly heavy. Chalk it up to all those absent minded and self absorbed people who never acknowledged the wrongdoing in their actions, and so I had to feel guilty for them. They are plenty, and come in every variety and are never, ever wrong about anything in their eyes. I hated people more with each day.
I wondered if the dim witted people on the bus who chastised the bus driver for looking out for our safety, our best interest, for demanding the man with the five gallon pail of who knows what to exit, I wondered if those same dolts would hold the bus driver responsible if he ignored the man and the contents of the pail ignited and exploded. How many would point their stained fingers in his direction? How many would see dollar signs and sue? The media would portray the driver as careless and inept, but now he was oppressive and possibly racist.
If I ever wished for anything or ever prayed to a false god for any fucking favors I take it all back. I only want one thing. A comet. A flood to wash us all away. I’d rescind the wishes for new bicycles, the pleas for some women to please not be pregnant, or the hopes for my pathetic life to one day be mildly fulfilling and worthwhile. I take it all back. I just want this one thing. One lousy little thing. In the middle of all the screaming and cursing and spitting, I just wanted oblivion. Teach us assholes a lesson. There doesn’t seem to be anything good here. Let us roast. I’d take one for the team and relish every second of it. Don’t get it twisted. No religious crusades. No genocide. Just nothing. That’s all. Nothingness.
I snapped out of my blissful daydream as police boarded the front of the bus. Cops come gotta run. I decided I should just walk the rest of the way to the restaurant. Sundeep was probably there already. I usually felt ashamed for my own actions, and for the actions of those around me, but one short bus ride and I’m reminded how ashamed I was to call myself a human being.
I got off the bus. Immanuel Kant popped into my head. Have you read him? No? Me either. Maybe we should, together in my bed, with a glass of Tullamore Dew. The side of the bus had an advertisement for a mindless, shit film that was coming to a theater soon. I envisioned, Give Me Fecal Matter, And I Will Construct A World Out Of It, written in maroon spray paint across the perfect teeth and the inevitable happy ending of that poster for a movie that should never have been made in the first place, like me. I didn’t know what the German word for maroon was, but who gives a fuck.
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