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Bus Route

When I first saw you on the bus I took it for granted that I would see you again.  That first day, I imagined that you lived by the stop before me and that you worked somewhere after my drop-off spot.  You wore blue slacks or pants, office clothes of some kind topped with a long-sleeved knit plaid-like button-up shirt.  I imagined, during our short-shared ride, that you worked in a casual office due to your style of dress.  From that I took that you worked in a creative field of some sort; after all, certain rote types must always wear suits and ties and dress shoes.  The next day, I noticed that you wore sneakers that looked a little worn but clean.  I imagined those sneakers walking down the hall to ask my neighbors if they wouldn’t mind turning down the music.  After all, it was 3 am, and a weekday at that.  They had never listened to me.

The day after that, your eyes hid behind wide sunglasses, and I wondered what type of night you’d had.  I wanted to believe that maybe the neighbors down my hall kept you up again, but the tightness of your jaw betrayed origins of sadness.  I looked away, out of the window, glancing toward a park.  A gathering of homeless people appeared to be trading or sharing items.

The following day, I didn’t bother to look for you and your sneakers and the tenseness in your neck.  Instead I wondered what I did to make your jowls clench.  Perhaps I asked or demanded, rather, that instead of walking those sneakers into work that you walk them alongside me.  My static self and its negativity must have grated on you.  After each fight I wanted to love you less.

I missed you in sadness and silence, knowing that it must be me, and missed you in spite of seeing your shoes down the aisle.  When I was younger and viewed music and lyrics as my religion I listened to the saddest songs in the sky to amp up myself and explain the world I couldn’t control.  The things and people that happened which I hated and had to live with or try to forget.  I don’t remember the song or the actual lyric but do recall that it said something like the reason why we miss someone although we’re with them is because we can envision a life without them.  I wish I knew the actual prettier lyric, but the message transcends the medium.

The weekend passed and I eagerly adjusted my scarf while getting on the bus, ready to do something brave like sit behind you or even next to you.  You weren’t, not the next day or the rest of the week, and I wondered what had happened those several days.  I felt an inexplicable sadness at your disappearance and disappointment at my inaction and projection and self.  Maybe it wasn’t me but I knew it was someone like me.


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Amanda walked outside wearing only a thin, red plaid flannel, well-worn and pink at the elbows. It belonged to her eldest brother, Jeremy, and it was the only item of his that remained after he went away to school.  She wore a new pair of athletic socks with white flip flops.  It was winter, the coldest one yet recorded to date, but she was part of the No Pants movement, and she hadn’t worn pants all year, and she wasn’t about to start now.

The week before, she adorned a proper Christmas sweater with tights.  Her mother, Sally, did not comment on her outfit; she was only happy that she wasn’t completely bare. She didn’t understand teenagers, although she of course been a teenager once; it seemed that the teenage years of her past and her daughter’s present form were completely different breeds, incompatible.

“It’s like the flu virus that keeps on changing.”  She remembered her own mother saying this during her youth, but she felt it didn’t really translate over to her own daughter.  Despite the brazenness of the lack of pants, Sally felt a uncomfortable pride when seeing Amanda’s bare legs walk in and out of her house.  They were beautiful, long, lean and colorful, and her daughter could only be young once, and if a No Pants movement had to occur, now was the right time.

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Everything was a soggy mess.  The women were huddled on the paisley couch; the men were standing in the other, with drinks in hand, as if nothing had happened.  The mood was damp.  Dr. Morganmeim left ten minutes prior, angry and offended.  Miriam slowly cleaned up the table.  It hadn’t started out this way; Miriam had planned every single detail to ensure a night of success– the number of guests, of course; the dinner menu, accounting for allergies and preferences; the right blend of social stratifications and such.  The dinner party wasn’t small enough to be considered intimate, and it wasn’t too large in which someone could leave unnoticed.

Dr. Morganmeim moved to Arlington just four and a half months prior, bringing his liberal West Coast sensibilities with him.  Arlington was a small town, and most were curious about Dr. Morganmeim because he had no roots there.  Most of the town could trace their ancestry to the very first settlers, and were proud of it.  During morning coffee at Miriam’s, Mary Pepper told the girls that she heard Dr. Morganmeim was a descendent of the first governor of the colony, but she didn’t know why or how people thought this.  It spread like wildfire.

As a neighbor, it was Miriam’s duty to bring Dr. Morganmeim into the town, whether or not he had deep roots.  Of course, it would be nice if he had some clout, but nevertheless, he was a doctor.  Not a real one– but a head one– some people disagreed about his profession, but mental illness was not something talked about out loud, not even at the morning coffees or dinner parties.

However– one thing that was discussed at much length, without any clarifying details, which lead to more discussion and speculation– was his marital status.  He seemed to be single with no children.  Yet he had a ring on his finger.  Well, not really.  He had a pale band that suggested a ring was missing.  Mrs. Pallington noticed it in church, during the hymns.  Very religious, she would lower her head while singing and she could not keep her eyes away from the tan hand with the glowing, white band.  She told this story at morning coffee, and repented that her mind strayed from God that Sunday morning.

The gossip was enough.  Miriam wanted to move the topics to the usual:  upcoming debutantes and parties, the town fundraiser charity dinner, and the Christmas pageant.  She planned a dinner and invited all the right people.  Miriam had a reputation for planning perfect parties, until the night she invited Dr. Morganmeim and until the moment when her husband shot the questions.

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Governor no-more, Sarah Palin
Will surely become a political has-been
Her hair and glasses may become iconic–
Her speech was somewhat ironic
If it had made any sense
We wouldn’t question… what tense…?
And on Alaska, she wouldn’t be bailin’.

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I left my smoky town on an escalator highway circling around the greenish needs of every person who’d ever left
Held up by the crispy pieces of what we call good intentions
that drifted its way back
Pretty moths hid in travel clothes and nibbled their concerns at me
I did not attend.
Too many analogies and metaphors between us,
Can’t be too sure–
Methinks wearing purple nail polish and red lipstick is archaic but I’ll wash the dishes
This whole time you were sitting on a pea,
A pea
Oh, I’m sleepy

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Red sharp and shiny

Leaning on old elbows at Chinese lunch, tired of both the company and the food, he made a half-hearted decision not to do this again.  He was not a fan of dim sum, but he did like Chinese food generally (his mind he had a faraway definition of Chinese food—think orange chicken).  There was something essential about dim sum that turned the food lackluster.  Eating at the whim of others—what they wanted to eat, what they decided you’d eat, this lack of choice and control from older women yelling and nudging into dining space.

He’d always thought at the table, hands pretending to be busy with tea or twisting napkins, while others were happily clacking their chopsticks together and on tin bowls, I motherfucking hate dim sum.

In a move not unlike him, he went back on his promise to himself, going to lunch with a Chinese girl, and in an effort to impress her and to make her happy and to get into her high-waisted skirt, he told her he’d take her out to eat wherever she wanted, and he just said it, threw it out there and didn’t think much of it, but her eyes lit up.  She used to go to Dim Sum every Sunday morning with her family, she said.  And since she moved to California she hasn’t, not because she hasn’t been dying to, but because she hadn’t anyone to go with, and wasn’t she so excited she now had someone to go with?

And so he said yes, because he liked this girl so far and because she looked pretty and bright, wearing red lips and shoes, and he knew he would hate the feeling of disappointing—not like he wasn’t used to it—but if he could, he would resist it.  And because, she now had him.

They met at a coffee shop, she looking sharp red lips and shoes and smiles, and they walked to the dim sum restaurant, and he knew he felt disgruntled and unsatisfied at the start.

Months prior at a popular karaoke bar, he had the same dissatisfaction when a black man turned to him and told him how pretty his friend was, and told her that she loved to travel (as if she didn’t know), and that he was a psychic who had his own radio show and inferred his answers through date of birth, only.  Then the psychic turned towards him. “You think too much, and this will fuck you up,” and he laughed.  Not because he didn’t believe it, but because it was that obvious.  That’s not psychic power, that’s intuition, he thought.

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On a good day I read to one child.  The neighborhood doesn’t have that many kids on account of being in downtown, but a couple do come in on Saturdays.  Most kids go to the library not to read, but to– play computer games.  So I try to walk up to kids, tell them that if they want, I can read a book to them or they can read a book to me, if they want.  They just look at me and every once in a while, will turn their head around and peek a glance at me, and smile, a wholehearted innocent meaningful smile that gets corrupted and lost with age.

One boy, a six-year old Judo expert, asked me to read a book about the earth.  He would ask, very often, questions like, “What is that part of the rocket?”  “Where is Antartica?”  “Do Jaguars eat other Jaguars?”

Then, two twin girls came:  four years old with black hair, long enough to sit on.  I let the three sit together, and we looked for Waldo.

“I found him!”  they yelled.  The boy, very frustrated and being a bit bossy while still being as polite as he could, said, “Can you guys move your arms up?  I know I can find him.”

Girls aren’t paying attention.  Arms splattered on the book and giggles.

Then he says, after terse silence: “My dad told me not to do Judo on nice people.”

“No, dear, let’s not do that,” I said.

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