The 44

People are so silent on the bus. I look up from my book (my iPod is broken) and see all the earbuds, all the bent heads, all the faces looking out the window. No one sees me. No one yells or gesticulates with no regard for personal space, no one posits useless, smelly theories, no one makes a nuisance of himself. They sit quietly. We sit quietly. I sit quietly.

The movie theater, the other movie theater dribble past my window as I finish another chapter of my book. The big intersection with the freeway, around which I still orient myself from the days when I could hear its shishing from my bedroom window, two houses ago, two years ago, even though I live a good twenty-minute drive from it now. The erotic bakery eases past, the competing gas stations whose prices are a ridiculous ten cents apart. A man with a beard sits in the empty seat next to mine and starts a crossword puzzle. I hear the streets inch by rather than see them, I feel them in the lurch of the bus. I could do this bus route blind, I could count the stops using my pulse as a pendulum, like Galileo bored in church, and get off at the right one just from timing the whole thing.

The zoo. The big hill with its unmown foliage and tight new townhouses. The tiny gourmet restaurant I have never tried although I’ve meant to do so many times. The big supermarket, the Walgreens, the small bungalows with their chain-link fences and their scraped-together mortgage payments. The old firehouse where I used to bellydance on the top floor and where I now eat wood-fire-overn pizza on the bottom floor. The unfinished furniture store, the cupcake bakery, the multicolored bulbous sculptures hoisted on metal stalks across the street from the auto licensing place. I know these things the way I used to know the order of the churches that lined the road near the freeway entrance, two houses ago. I know them the way I used to know the bike store and the sun on the lake one house ago. I know them intimately, strangely, temporarily. When I come back to those place in two or five or eight years I’ll see the changes, I’ll have the memories (walking down the street by what used to be the library at around midnight, choosing blueberries at the Sunday market, pie at Hattie’s Hat) but the underneath skin of recognition won’t be there the way it is now, after only two months. I will have to pick my head up from my book if I ever take the bus here to make sure I get off at the right stop.
Not now, though. Now I finish the story I’m reading, now I pull the cord by the window as I close the cover and slip it into my bag. Now I show my bus pass and thank the driver and swing off the steps and wait for the next segment of my journey home.

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