Face, Meet Sidewalk

Bus ride

Posted on: May 14, 2011

Another creative writing exercise – this was meant to help us develop our skills in describing sensory input.

Today, as soon as I get on the bus, I can see it would be best to avoid the seats at the back. Three dark-skinned young men in ridiculously baggy pants are busy completing a fairly obvious drug deal, which the driver is pointedly ignoring. The choices for seats aren’t great, anyway – the first three rows are taken up by a teenaged mother and about a zillion identically snot-nosed, grubby kids. I choose a seat next to a businessman with an e-book reader, who, with an irritated huff, squeezes past me and heads for the door about four seconds after I get settled. Lucky for me, he is quickly replaced by a gorgeous redhead who folds her impossibly long legs into the seat next to me, and places a green backpack on her thighs.

I can smell her hair. She must have come from the gym; it is damp, despite the cold, and fragrant. She sips from a paper cup, and the scent of an expensive dark roast wafts over, mingling with a whiff of wet wool mittens and the ever-present stench bus exhaust. A breath of fresh air, next to the reek of cheap wine and BO that rolls off the homeless guy sprawled on the seat in front of me.

The song playing in my ear ends and in the silence between songs, I can hear tinny music from the earbuds of someone behind me. The man up ahead mutters something about the government to his uncomfortable-looking seatmate. From the back, a woman bangs on the door and yells to the driver that he missed her stop. One of the teenaged mother’s zillion kids whines tiredly in a tone that reminds me of a mosquito buzzing past my ear.

My eyes water and I taste coppery blood as a particularly big bump makes me bite my tongue. I take a swig of my ice-cold coffee, and the roasted bitterness is a pleasant contrast. Now, the smell of wet wool is so thick, it is almost chewy. Bile rises in my throat when one of the hoodlums across the aisle spits on the floor. To clear the coffee and hot sick from my mouth, I pop in a piece of spearmint gum. I think about offering some to the redhead, but lose my nerve. Almost my stop.

Acutely aware of the girl, I suddenly notice nervous sweat running between my shoulder blades. I rub the condensation off the icy window so I can see where I am. I press the smooth plastic of the stop-requested button and rub past my seatmate’s knees to get out into the aisle. When the bus finally stops at my street, I grind my fist against the grubby yellow strip along the back door so it will open, and it discharges me into the night.

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