“I want to give you my seat, but there isn’t enough room to get up.”
We’re really packed in on the Q31 bus. People don’t want to drive in the snow – can’t drive, really. In my neighborhood, there are cars buried so deep that only the flash of a side view mirror differentiates a car from the empty piles. There are also throngs of people walking in the streets because the plows have pushed the snow from the roads onto the sidewalks.
“I said I want to give you my seat.”
Foreign accent, possibly South American. I look down at myself and my big, black coat (the one that I hate, but it’s so warm) and I see a roundness that could easily be mistaken for pregnancy. So I stick out my tummy and curve my back because in a bus full of smelly strangers with wet feet, I’m certainly not above that sort of thing. I try to look pregnant. I’ve seen it enough times to guess at a drawn expression and haggard stance. I venture a few cautious glances at my belly.
But then I’m pushed away by the natural shifting hierarchy of us bus ridin’ fools. Down the aisle into the vacuum that has formed by the back door, I’m pulled farther in and when I finally stop, I see his hand grab the pole right above mine. Great, I think, just great. We’re only at the beginning of the trip and I am three and a half hours into my commute. I do not have the patience for this right now.
“You know, I love my girlfriend, but I’d leave her in a second for a chance at something with you.”
I cringe, then stand up tall, erasing the belly I was carrying around. A slight turn of the head and I see tall, thin, dark and further up, teeth that point in every conceivable direction. Maybe forty or thirty-five. I move my hand down the pole, away from his.
“That’s bad,” I say, meaning it.
“It is. But in life, you take your chances. That’s why I had to give up my seat when you moved away.”
“Hmm,” I say, buying myself those precious few seconds that every girl purchases occasionally when confronted by madmen and perverts and dirty old men. Hmm, indeed. Vio, the Casual Bar, rolls by on my left, flanked by all you can eat Korean barbecue and a wedding boutique. Bingo.
“Hate to disappoint you…”
In the next few moments, I get married and give birth to two wonderful boys, ages three and one. I do some light office work in the mornings at a real estate agency, but then I go home to my little men. I’m of Scottish decent.
“I hate to leave them; I really do. It’s hard to go to work in the mornings,” I say, covering the ring finger on my left hand and hoping he doesn’t ask to see pictures.
“When I saw you I knew that you had to have something. Girls like you aren’t just walking around without anything going on.”
Nod. Look out the window. When a seat opens and I sit down, he follows and takes up residence to my left with his crotch almost level with my eyes. I avoid looking at him or his area for fear that he’ll get ideas. But I take up as much room as I can on my seat, legs spread and arms out, and back straight in defiance of the position of dominance that this fellow has assumed. Or so it seems, since he blocks my only escape route with his body.
“I think that’s the most honorable thing. You see women, beautiful women, walking around with one child and then women you couldn’t care less about with five or six! You should have more.”
“We,” I say, “are thinking of trying for a girl.”
“All those boys,” he nods.
“My little men.”
“Your husband must be a very good man. I hope he stays that way, but most men don’t. I think you should have six or seven more. It should be your profession. The world needs more of you. You need to make that your job: having little ones.”
“Uh huh,” I say because this is funny stuff and goading him on is almost worth the hours on the subway (though the oddness value is not nearly as high as yesterday’s guy who kept screaming 'suck on my dick’).
“You know when I offered to give you my seat, what I really meant was to offer to give you my paycheck. Give you the whole thing.
“Your girlfriend probably wouldn’t like that so much.”
I suddenly wish that I could tell her that her fellow likes to hit on married young mothers in buses but then again, she probably knows. She already knows that his preference runs towards the lighter side: northern European blondes. He gives her his paycheck every week because, he says (my bus ride is long), if he wants to be the only man the she’s seeing, he has to prove to her that everything he has is hers. Happy couple of something-or-others, I’m sure. They might have met on a bus.
After my four hour commute, I make it into work only two hours late, but I’m not the only one and I called ahead. No worries there. Mild worry concentrated itself, instead, on my desk in the form of a pink envelop addressed to me, c/o the Queens Courier. Addressed to me care of my job that no one, and I mean no one, has been given the address to. Not that it would be hard to find out – it’s a newspaper after all and so they tend to like when people write to them.
A quick gander at the return address nets me Joe, with a last name obscured by a pen smear. I wrote an article about a fellow named Joe and his wife Sala, but they didn’t live at 308 Canal Street and didn’t seem the type to use a big, bright envelop stiff enough to contain a greeting card. I get a clue, tear it open and am greeted with a card For A Special Granddaughter.
I am a very special granddaughter? Joe?
Pearl. Turning the card around (there were stickers inside), I read the post-script: I loved your Valentine story in the Courier. The post-mark was from the 13th and thus before I went back to Pearl to pick up my last two checks. Which means people actually read my newspaper. Which means somebody likes me and I know who. There was contact information, and now I’m at a loss because calling or emailing would indicate an interest that isn’t there. I hope my lack of response doesn’t discourage him from continuing to be the sort of person who makes that sort of gesture.
I’m bad at this sort of thing.
And as per yesterday and the attached trials:
Nine hours on the NYC subway: $1.50
Two teas as bathroom passes: $2.00
One pack of cigarettes, chained: $7.50
Fifteen minutes with my man, before he hightailed it back home: Priceless.