if you have frequented a city bus somewhere in the continental 48, you are probably aware that there are five types of conversations to be had in this setting:
1) quarrels with an invisible foe
2) teenage love affairs
3) loud cell phone exchanges
4) friendly (and unexpected) reunions
5) attempts to woo a stranger
yesterday i experienced all 5. in reverse order. it started when a tall, lanky character stepped out of a coen brothers film, leaned across the aisle and started in with:
"yeah, i do that a lot, too."
"i never used to. i always saw it as a - sort of - feminine thing."
"thing is, i had got locked up for awhile."
a middle-aged gentlemen interceded on my behalf. plopping down in the seat next to me, he cut me off from the cross-aisle conversationalist who gesticulated wildly and continued undeterred:
"meanwhile, my supposed fiancée starts using again - heroin AND cocaine - all the while pregnant with my baby."
no sooner had the bus started moving, my bench partner leaned over and slurred: "pullastringbaby. thanyou." turns out equilibrium issues, not paternal instincts motivated his move to the seat. as he stumbled off the bus with an empty jose cuervo in his back pocket, the chivalrous chatter got up to support him and snagged the seat next to me. mere centimeters from my face, he continued, wide-eyed:
"so when i got out i caught her using and i was like, 'are you crazy?!'"
"the baby came a month early and she told the doctors i knew she'd been using and would you believe they charged me with 'parental neglect.'"
"did they take the baby away?"
"no, mom's got him, thank god. say, this is my stop. you think i could get your number - i could take you out for dinner sometime?"
i declined with an impotent "i can't," instead offering a friendly handshake. later, when a woman boarded the bus and began conversing with the stuffed animal giraffe in her purse, i looked out the window and mused: why didn't i think of that?
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