The Time: Last night
The Place: On The 73 bus heading north
[Chiara is sitting on the bus reading her book, hoping the guy behind her will not hock a loogey into her hair, as he is making horrible choking and spitting sounds]
Guy Behind Chiara: (in an exaggeratedly shaky, drunken voice reminiscent of Barney on The Simpsons, to a man a couple of seats ahead of him) Say, is that a new Carhartt jacket?
Other Guy: Uh…no.
GBC: Oh, because I thought it was a new Carhartt jacket. Because of the way it folds, you see.
GBC: Oh, you see, the way it was folding, there on your back, I thought it was a Carhartt.
OG: Well, it’s not.
GBC: Yeah, when I worked construction, I wore a Carhartt, and that’s how my hands got all messed up. Arthritis. It’s the repetitive motion that does it.
OG: Uh huh. That’s got to hurt.
GBC: Yeah, I got people telling me all the time, hey, wait, you’re only forty-one years old, how come you got this repetitive motion arthritis thing?
Chiara: (eye roll)
GBC: I say, it’s because of the repetive motion of working construction. And that’s why I thought it was a Carhartt. Looks just like a Carhartt. Because of the way it folds.
OG: Nope. Land’s End.
GBC: Oh, now, see, that’s a good jacket. I really like their slippers, at Land’s End.
[The bus comes to OG’s stop]
GBC: Now, their outdoor wear, that’s not so good. But their slippers, those are good.
[OG gets off bus. The girl sitting next to Chiara on the aisle side of the bus gets off two stops later. Chiara puts her nose deeper into her book.]
Inside Chiara’s Head: Please please please don’t let him sit next to me. Please don’t let him sit next to me. Only five more stops till Safeway, please please please. I know I am supposed to be a social worker and a therapist but I prefer to see clients in an office setting and I don’t even have clients anymore and I know I am bad and evil God but please don’t make me sit next to this man. I just want to go home.
[From the tail of her eye, Chiara sees GBC get out of his seat and come to where she is sitting. He magically transforms from Guy Behind Chiara to Guy Next To Chiara]
Inside Chiara’s Head: Shit.
GNTC: (in the same absurdly slurred-to-the-point-of-cariacture voice, holding a coffee cup) I couldn’t help but notice you’re so engrossed in your book there. The whole ride, I noticed, you’re just sitting there with your book, and I wondered what could that book be? Who’s the author?
Chiara: (tersely) Bill Bryson.
GNTC: Oh. I thought, hey, she’s really into her book there. That must be a really good book, you just seemed so engrossed there.
Chiara: (not taking eyes off book) Mmm.
Inside Chiara’s Head: Just great. If I tell him to leave, he’ll get all violent and crazy OR he’ll move across the aisle and start calling me a bitch and telling me that he wasn’t doing nothing, that he was just trying to have a conversation, but he guesses that’s not allowed, how some people think they’re too good to have a simple conversation, and he didn’t mean nothing. Excuse him for living. And I’ll just have to sit here until we get to my stop and WHY ISN’T THAT CAR MOVING COME ON ALREADY!
*GNTC**: So, would you midn f I sat here? Can I sit here? Or would you like me to move? I just couldn’t help but notice you seemed so interested in your book there.
Chiara: (pointedly): Yes, why don’t you…
GNTC: So what are you reading there?
Chiara: (shows book title (_Notes From A Small Island_))
GNTC: Oh, haven’t read that one. I don’t read much…anymore. No, not for a while. Oh, sure, when I was in the Merchant Marines, I read a lot, read all the time. When I was in the Merchant Marines. Yeah, I used to read a lot when I was a sailor, but now that I’m not a sailor anymore, I don’t read so much. Know what I mean?
Inside Chiara’s Head: Maybe this is performance art. I mean, the Merchant Marines? He’s probably got a hidden camera and he’s doing a project for art school called Conversations On A Bus, and he’s going to write his prospectus about how shallow middle class people are. Well, all I have to say is that he’s very good and he should get an A. Thank the Lord, here’s my stop. (pulls buzzer rope)
Chiara: Pardon me, please.
GNTC: Oh, it’s your stop. Okay. Well, you have a great day. Nice talking to you. Maybe we’ll see each other again one day.
[Chiara gets off the bus with a sigh of relief, berating herself for not having been a) more firm with the guy or b) more compassionate towards the guy. As the bus passes her, GNTC waves through the window at her.]