The bus slowly moves along. It passes her former work place, and even a former lover who walks down the street almost carelessly. It looks like he’s looking for something or someone. Her?
“Hey!” he shouted from across the street and called her to attention, wagging his index finger to beckon her. The image makes the hair on her arms stand on end, like little soldiers with perfect posture. The memory of his voice and touch cause her to vomit in her mouth, but she chokes it back down without a second thought. She wished she had broken his finger in that moment.
It’s been a few years since, but they had encountered each other many times along that same path, but she purposely avoids it now. He’s wearing a brown leather jacket and black jeans. His face is just as stupid as she remembers. She turns her head to watch his exiguous frame disappearing behind the bus. He is nothing but a stranger now, and she can't decide if she still hates him. Hate is a strong feeling, and any feeling would mean that she still cared, so she decides she doesn't hate him any longer. What would be the point? Hate would be such a wasted emotion on a stranger, better not to care at all.
The bus continues, stopping at one point to make a driver exchange. One shift ends and another begins. This reminds her that she's cutting it close, and she hopes she'll make it to work on time. The bus turns on to Western. She checks a bus tracking app to make sure the second bus she needs to take is on time. One minute away it says, she'll get to work on time, no doubt about it. She gets off the bus at Western and Lawrence, then hops on the next bus soon after.
She sees a man sitting across from her, with sun soaked skin, fake diamond earrings and a close to the scalp haircut. She watches him crumple a few dollars and shove them in his pocket with his left hand. He keeps it there, clutching the money as if his life depends on it, at least she thinks so. With his right hand he wipes his eyes, and when his hand goes back to resting on his lap, it glistens as if wet. He's crying? She wonders if she should ask what's wrong, but doesn't. She watches him with growing interest. He's wearing black Nike shoes, the type meant for skateboarding, with untied laces that drag along the floor, and the white trim that's caked in dirt, blue jeans and a long sleeved shirt from Hollister. He's older, probably half way to death's door, and he's got dried blood caked behind his left ear.
The bus slowly creeps up a bridge, and stops constantly due to construction. She only has thirty minutes left before she'll be late to work. The weather is mild, no chilling wind that slices the skin or baking sun that ages it, only a cool breeze and streaked clouds that blend in with the light blue sky. The man twitches. He opens a bottle and downs something. It's alcohol. He's drunk. The bottle is almost empty and he spills most of the remaining contents on himself. He yawns, unconcerned with the mess he's made. Drunk before three in the afternoon. She tries not to judge him. She wonders why he's doing this, and if he does it often. Twenty minutes till work. He sits with his hands on his lap, fingers interlocked.
The bus passes her friend's house on Belden, and she wonders what she could be doing at this very moment. Probably sleeping. Her friend has an awful sleep schedule. More people board the bus. The drunk man stands up, prepared to get off. The back of his shirt is wet, how did he do that? He gets off by the Western blue line. She wonders if he's got more bottles in his black backpack and if he'll continue drinking on the train. She checks the time. Seventeen minutes until she's late.
A woman stands nearby, talking to herself. She recounts a story about a past job. "They turned against me because of one lie," the woman says, but it's out of context and she's not sure what she is going on about. She pulls the cord to indicate her stop is coming up. "All you want to do is hurt me," the woman goes on. Who is she talking to? She gets louder. "Sweetheart, I'm gonna have to ask you to sit down," calls the bus driver from the front. He's got brown skin, a kind face and a massive frame. She gets even louder, ignoring or maybe not even realizing that she was being instructed to quiet down. Then the woman says, "I felt cold. There was no love in his heart." She wonders what this woman has been through, and thinks about asking, but doesn't. The bus stops across from her workplace. She hops off after thanking the driver, and leaves the woman and the live drama of public transportation for a few hours.