by Lae-Ella Sinniah
He’s only a metre away from me. Just sitting there. I know men like him. He’s not very well kept. His misbehaving hair sticks out and hangs scraggly around his hungry looking eyes. What is it with men these days? Does he not own a hairbrush? The stranger shuffles around on the bench, stretching his legs out. Making me nervous. He moves a little closer. I scrunch my leather bag for comfort, playing with the tassels to distract myself from his uneasy presence. I know men like him. With their cheap arrogance and wanting gaze. Believing that the world is there to serve them, to satisfy their wants and desires. I wonder where the bus is? Maybe I should just get a taxi…
She’s only a metre away. I can smell her generously applied perfume from where I sit. God, I love that smell. It reminds me of visits to my grandma’s house as a kid. She would suffocate me in her big hugs and kiss me all over saying I was her favourite grandchild. It made me feel special, although I knew she said that to all her grandchildren. The heat of the day is beginning to irritate me. I shuffle around in my seat, moving over slightly and stretching my stiff legs after an epic day of work. Can’t wait to get home and watch some telly. The stranger sitting next to me looks tired too. Wonder what she did today. She’s clutching her handbag with a fierce look plastered on her furrowed brow, lips taut and fingers fidgeting aimlessly with the tassels on her handbag. Some people really need to loosen up. What does she think I’m going to do? Mug her? Maybe I should talk to her. Where’s the bus?
I can feel him watching me. He turns his head slightly to the left, his eyes inspecting me. Like a wild animal sizing up its prey before pouncing. Maybe I should call someone. Yes, that’s a good idea. I rummage for my phone. Nope, that’s not it. Oh no, where is it? I really need to do something about this bag. Half the stuff in here is just rubbish anyway. Should get that sorted out. Where is my phone?! I sip in a sharp breath. The stranger beside me fades away and panic takes his place. Beads of sweat begin to form on my upper lip. Heart pounding, I sit very still and wait.
I watch her as she clatters around looking for something in her handbag. My curiosity grows stronger the more flustered she becomes. She sure is something, ay. She seems cool enough, but she needs to chill. She’s really looking for something. I wonder what? I guess everyone is always searching for something these days. I chuckle to myself, bemused by my sudden wisdom. I can see the rapid rise and fall of her chest, although the stranger beside me sits very still, eyes fixed on something far off in the distance, as if willing the bus to come faster with her mind. On the bench between us, I see an old mobile. The kind that still has buttons. I guess that’s what she’s looking for, huh.
The stranger beside me taps me on the shoulder. I jump! Finding it hard to breathe, I turn to him, every muscle tensed, ready to run… or scream. He smiles at me. What does he want? He reaches out with a steady hand and passes me my phone. Is this yours? He asks in a deep, gentle voice. He sounds just like my brother. I know I should say something but the surprise sticks to the back of my throat, blocking words from forming. I snatch the phone from him, turn and leave. The bus welcomes me with a comforting splutter and hiss of its engine. Sitting comfortably at the front of the bus, I glance out the window. I see the stranger who once sat beside me as he continues to wait patiently for his bus. My heart beat steadies as the distance between us grows. Relieved to be heading home, I make a mental note to sort out all the junk in my handbag. Then I sink safely into my seat and close my eyes.
She doesn’t smile back. She doesn’t say thank you. She just reaches out with her small shaking hand and takes the phone from me. She’s scared. Of what? I have to admit I’ve been looking a bit rough lately. Maybe I’ve scared her with my lazy eye. I’ve always found that kinda weird. But I can see the fear in her, it oozes out of her small fragile body. She opens her mouth as if to say something, then changes her mind and walks stiffly away. Confused, I watch as the bus swallows her up and steals her away. I wonder what her problem was? I shrug my shoulders and shake my head. Hope I get home in time for the footy game.