I fold myself into invisible spaces. Like a cat, my tail forgotten.
The man next to me is foam packed, bloated with winter. A crooked old man hand escapes his sleeve and pulls me from my hiding space. He points: “I want to murder those birds.”
Other men who are never not drunk barely hold themselves erect and have lived in these seats forever. Each wears flannel shirt and wool knit cap and missing teeth from intentions and accidents. Each has never been young, ghost locked at forty and remembering.
The bus stops and the smell of whisky and crackers staggers upright to challenge his prison. He yells at the door, neglecting to note the gesture required to opensaysme. Resting his forehead against the glass he yells DRIVER again and again until one man holds his jacket to keep the marionette from earning his mouth more empty spaces, while another holds open the door. He doesn’t recognize this crack team responsible for another day without a head injury. Waiting for him is a woman bright orange and shit talking and far away from her own AA coin, waving a giant pillowtop mattress sign, half turned to her drive-by audience.
I can’t picture this man drinking from a straw, or wrapping a present, or repotting a plant. I can’t imagine him looking at the lines in my hand and comparing them to his own, wondering if they overlap and if they do will they click to key so we can both remap. I can’t imagine him having questions for the pharmacist, asking for more foam on his latte, coloring as a way to relax.
He probably can’t imagine me at all.
Teenagers travel in packs, wearing insides out, congested with canned laughter. Heart shapes drawn on cheeks and decorating tights and desperation, while others announcing the discomforts of business casual balance tupperware containers emptied of sugary treats a little too close to my head.
Valentine’s Day helps women hate each other. Velour balloons announce confections and give my face another something to dodge. Fat wads of fast dying flowers peek out of backpacks and wink at the downcast face of the sour-anointed someone who might just fatten her social network with ruminations on being alone. She adjusts hairclips cast as flowers that resemble stars. If such devices were used to puncture, she’d be left with wind spun hair.
Evidence that meth remains a problem despite the state-wide ban on effective allergy medication locks us all in place. It reeks of impatience and is sponsored by Apple. Some fucking fuck filled rant about whether or not a transfer is still valid, yells to move back move back, the snap of a plastic container being pried apart for a taste of cake and a guilty grin. Unwashed hair in front of me. Bleached hair beside me. All of us are itchy.
We pass strippers arranging themselves outside of clubs to smile at those looking for love. The unmarked graves of Chinese men and women who built this city in secret. Two elderly women with careful grey curls, holding a soup bowl between them. A pack of people dressed as sharks with paper hearts glued all over their bodies, twirling red gift bags and giggling. A sign that reads: “The really dangerous power lines don’t spark or slither. They just lay there.”
Arms arranged in triangles clutch poles and trap sounds. A single seat remains unclaimed, no matter the claustrophobia of passengers. Wrist tattoos drawn with hands sloppy or steady snake away from skin. Me, hoping to claim them. Me, slapped alive by earphones gone wild, the mortified wielder of the whip apologizing more and more. A pant leg hides something yellow. A sneak at something pink. Four rolling can of ceremony.
My stomach is in my hands.