Across from me there sat this woman who looked like she was about to cry. Her face was huge and she kept frowning and squinting and really doing this pout until it looked like she was going to cry. She never cried though. She would keep swallowing like she her throat was burning and the burning was going to make her cry. But she never did. Of course she wasn’t really across from me, she was somewhere diagonal, but everyone was so close together it seemed like the people at the front were next to me where I stood at the back.
I decided she didn’t have some disorder that gave her the mind of six year old, which would have made her pouty-look look like a lost-and-scared look. The way she was clutching that Hello Kitty bag and she kept her mouth closed like she was afraid to make any sound at all, I was really sure of it for a second. But then I decided that things aren’t always that drastic in life and that I probably thought that only because I wanted there to be such a range of life on the buses of Los Angeles. I only wanted this lady to maybe have this disease and there she was, riding the bus, like any other human, just so I could tell my friends and illustrate the vast possibilities on this planet.
But, sober, I pulled myself back and realized she probably just had a sore throat. Maybe she was really just sad. I decided there were a lot of sad things out there and any one of them could have happened to her. There was even the possibility that something not-that sad happened to her, but she wass the type to blow it out of proportion and then seek solace from others about it. If so, numbers wise, the bus wasn’t a bad choice. Only numbers on the bus mean nothing. The fullest bus I’ve been on has also been the quietest.
What means something on the bus is scent quite honestly. There’s a real correlation there. Smell good and you pass. Smell like old things or fish and ya blew it. Credibility gone. It’s simple but that’s why I like it. If you smell like a garden, expect to wield the power of a person who smells like a garden might wield on a bus. I’m picturing some professors from the college in town. Actually just one. And I think she’s a professor’s wife. Wouldn’t see her on a bus. But then, the bus doesn’t smell of soil and plants. Maybe soil’d pants and marijuana but each of the respective emitters of those scents are right where they should be too.
I’m wearing cologne. Above the rest, I float in there. When I pass people they’re thanking me. “Thank you, sir.” And maybe that’s why the poutist is staring at me. Maybe she’s recognized my scent as that of her only child, taken from her at birth because she was unable to care for me and the pout is part of her preparation to tell me.
Or maybe she’s trying to tell me through non-verbal communication, which I’m a big fan of if you have had prior interactions with the person. Of course, if I were her son, she would have had prior interaction with me, of course. The most intimate kind, shiveringly enough. But then, it would only make sense that she would be able to interpret my non-verbal cues.
I tilted my ear and the side-dome of my head toward her, like I was listening attentively. I squinted my eyes just that way I do when I’m inviting people to tell me their woes. Mother? I pulled my lower jaw into my upper one so my lips bubbled out and my dimples came through. Are these your dimples I’ve borne all my life? She looks down and bubbles her lips out too.
And then she looks out the other window. And kind of looks toward the front of the bus and starts to look concerned. So, nope, not my mother. But you never know. Maybe she is my mother and she just doesn’t know it right now, but she’ll remember me for this little moment we’ve had, and years later when we meet again she’ll say “I knew it was you!” Anything is possible.
I’ve even heard it said that there’s some kind of secret plot by the government to turn us into these dependent robots. Where they’ve been working with corporations to slowly desensitize our entire brains. They figured out how to get us slowly, steadily sicker as time went on. Just a little bit more sick, every time. You would get a little sick and go to the doctor and she’d give you something. And then, even though the thing that helped you helped you, it made something else wrong with you. A worse liver or a worse intestine or a worse brain because it was medicine that drove you crazy and told your body to do things it wouldn’t normally want to do. And then you go back to the doctor and she gives you medicine for that too.
“Back door!” someone yelled and the brake was applied. “Thank you.” I got up and yelled “back door!” too, because if they could do it, I could do it, but the bus driver just looked at me in the mirror like I was a moron and pulled onto the street. I knew then, for sure, that this woman was not my mother. For if she was, she would have sprung to my aid, protecting her child as her instincts would have commanded her to. A string of curses let off toward the front of the bus, the bus doors would have been flung wide, as my mother bore me out of the bus in her arms.
Or maybe she was my mother, and she was just so sick with the government sickness that she was starting to lose her memory and instinctual tendencies. I wondered how many times she’d been to the doctor, and if she’d been going more and more recently, and I imagined it would lend a little credit to the government sickness theory if she had. I pulled the yellow cord along the wall and looked at the mechanism at its end to make sure it moved. I took one last look at the woman that may have been my mother, and another moment longer as I waited for the hiss of the bus doors, and then looked at the doors, still closed for some reason.