The heat on that afternoon was withering. Sly beads of sweat had
transfigured my starched cotton shirt into something translucent
and sticky. I slouched into the curve of the scarecely shaded iron bench and prayed for
the bus. It was then that I noticed her. She moved through the
shimmering, sun-baked air with unconscious grace, like some dry-land
siren. Her skin was the color of chocolate, impossibly smooth.
Her high, round breasts reminded me of apples. The formless, gauzy
dress she was wearing clung to some new and interesting part with
each motion. I wanted to grab her, sink my teeth into her long
swan's neck, breathe her in. She favored a tired-looking matron
with a smile. I heard her voice, smooth and supple as her skin,
honeyed with sincerity.
"Are you waiting for the 108 bus, too?" she asked gravely. The
tired woman nodded. The girl then launched into an explanation
of how different Los Angeles was from Columbia, Missouri. Her
observations and questions had a practiced innocence. The tired
woman patiently endured the waterfall of words that came from
the girl's mouth, now and again answering with a nod, a shake
or a three word phrase. Finally the girl stopped her disarming
chatter and asked The Question. Her voice dropped low and I realized
that her conversation with the woman until now had been leading
up to this. All pretense of small town innocence dropped out of
her eyes, a hungry and strangely savage look crept over her face
while she awaited the woman's answer. The woman considered The
Question a moment and mouthed the word, "yes". Satisfied, the
girl nodded and moved onto another victim. This time she slithered
over to a middle-aged man, and worked her studied mix of sensuality
and wide-eyed innocence upon him. She made quick work of him,
and asked him The Question after about 45 seconds. She made her
way over to another person awaiting the 108 bus. I stared down
at my watch. What if she asked me The Question? How would I answer?
New drops of sweat beaded on my forehead, not solely from the
heat. I glanced up. The girl was working on yet another sun-addled
bus rider. There was only one other person at the stop she hadn't
spoken to besides me. Where was the bus? She had finished with
her last victim and was sidling my way. My heart beat rapidly,
how would I deal with The Question? And then, a rescue. Just as
she had parted full, apricot-colored lips to speak to me, the
bus arrived. The doors parted and a rush of cool air washed over
us. Never had I been so happy to see the 108 bus.
I scrambled on, took a window seat near the front, happily closed
my eyes. I had escaped the inquisition. Then there was a strong
smell of designer impostor perfume. I did not need to open my
eyes to know whose slender form was perched onto the seat next
to mine. I had not escaped. I opened one eye, then the other and
turned to look at her. The girl smiled brightly.
"Why Hello there, I'm LaShawn. I'm sure glad the bus finally got
here". No trace of the cunning predator in her voice. I mumbled something
vaguely affirmative. She smiled widely, like a watermelon slice.
In a carefully innocent manner she launched into her speech about
how different Los Angeles is from Columbia, Missouri. I stared
at the spray of dark freckles across her nose. Chocolate on chocolate.
Her eyes were like clover honey; a surfeit of sweetness. I listened
to the rise and fall of her voice without bothering to listen
to the meaning of her words. I was waiting for the question. Five
minutes passed, she was still rambling on about her life in Columbia.
Ten minutes. I learned about her job as a clerk for a lingerie
store in the mall. Nearer to my stop. Perhaps I would escape without
being asked The Question. Fifteen minutes. I was almost sure of
escape. She must have seen the look of freedom in my eyes, because
it was at that moment she pounced. The corners of her mouth stretched,
displaying teeth as white as sugar cubes. She leaned close and
in barely more than a whisper asked me the question, "Are you
My stomach knotted, the world seemed to slide. My mind was flooded with possible answers to her overwhelming question. First flip; Why yes, I have
accepted the fifth Avatar of Ahura Mazda as my Lord and Savior
or No, I'm an evil cock-sucking sodomite demon and I'm going
to drag your pious butt kicking and screaming into the blackest
pit of fiery Gehenna. No, but I am invested wisely. Then
the angry; How dare this smug, self-satisfied
stranger dare condescend to presume that there is some guaranteed
salvation, and that any of us can be sure of it? Drops of fear-sweat slid across
my skin, oily and insidious. What if there is no salvation? What
if there is and I've refused to accept it? But then, I remembered
Alex. His eyes were mild and the color of rosewood. He smelled
of sandalwood and dry maple leaves and sun. He said, "I love you"
with the reverence one shows the sacred. I knew my answer then.
I turned to this candy-store temptress and smiled serenely and said, "Yes."