Drop #108: On the Bus
February 5, 2013 2 Comments
He shifts in his seat and bumps me with his knee. He’s all sweat and muscles and looks tough in his sleeveless T. (some call them wife beaters.)
‘Sorry,’ he says.
I just smile to show it doesn’t matter and straighten my skirt.
We are near the front of the bus, in the second row. I’ve got the window. There’s about an hour to go before we get to Budapest Center.
The skinny man across the aisle to his right suddenly makes conversation: ‘I remember you from the main stage.’ He’s eating popcorn out of a party size black and gold bag. ‘You were dancing like crazy.’
‘I’m Mikael,’ the guy says, offering a hand he first wipes on his jeans.
‘Nice meeting you. You want some popcorn?’
‘No. Thanks,’ Jack says, getting up to close the tinted plastic sun roof. ‘Shit is shining right on my head,’ he says to me, sitting back down and I smile again.
Not a minute later, an older hippie type, maybe late fifties, thin gray hair to his shoulders, has come up front, and proceeds to open the sun roof back up. Jack looks at him, stone faced and asks him what he’s doing.
‘We need air in the back,’ the guy says. ‘There’s no ventilation in this bus.’
Jack gets up and closes it again. ‘It’s landing right on my head,’ he says.
But the old man is undeterred, sliding it aggressively open once more. ‘I don’t care; it stays open,’ he says, before wobbling back down the aisle, supporting himself on the headrests.
Jack lets him go. He wipes the corner of his mouth with a broad, nail bitten thumb, then looks straight ahead again, his forehead and short brown hair illumined by the strong rays pouring through the roof’s fresh wound. And two minutes later, when the old man is back in his seat, Jack gets up slowly, and closes it again. He sits and bounces his eyebrows when he sees me looking.
I don’t hear the older man coming but he’s soon back up front. ‘I thought I told you that this thing stays open,’ he says firmly, the frustration quite clear in his voice.
‘It’s shining on my head,’ Jack says. ‘It stays closed.’
‘I can’t breathe back there—none of us can breathe.’
‘I’m sure it’s not that bad.’
‘It is!’ the old hippie insists. He reaches up and slides the hatch wide open. Sun beats down on us.
Jack tries to compromise, sliding it back so that it’s only a quarter of the way open. ‘How’s that?’
‘Not good enough.’ The old guy pushes it all the way open again. ‘It stays open! I have a heart condition. I need all the air I can get.’
Jack turns to face his older, shorter antagonist. Slowly, he reaches up, and slowly, he slides the roof closed. When the man tries to open it again, Jack grabs his wrist. ‘You want to make this physical?’
‘I have a heart condition!’
‘Don’t use that as an excuse. I figure only about ten percent of living humans are worth the life they’re given and I’d bet my house you fall in the other 90. Now, go sit back down before I forget how to stay calm.’
I catch Mikael’s eye as the old guy waddles back to his seat in a huff. Mikael looks scared, even though he’s not involved. He’s eating popcorn like he’s at a horror movie. When Jack looks at him he thrusts the bag forward mechanically, and this time Jack takes a hand full. I do too. It’s cheese flavored.
Jack and I get off in central Budapest, near the bus terminal. It’s all concrete and gray ramps, but I know we’ll find a beautiful city over the next few days.
I can’t wait to get him back to the hotel. Jack doesn’t assert his will as much as he used to, and I don’t want to waste it. Confrontation is such a turn on.
By E.M. Vireo