To The Old Man At The Bus Stop

By Tessa J. Brown

You are sitting on the bench as I approach the bus stop a few blocks from my apartment. I have just bought a coffee so that I may drink it on my way to my class; I imagine myself drinking it slowly and relaxing on the bus. It will be so pleasant. Alas, this is not to be.

Your groceries are spread out across the bench, and you are watching me as I approach. Ah. I see you’ve moved your groceries so that I may sit on the bench. For some reason this feels like a trap, but it is too late now. I have smiled politely and sat down. There is nothing for it now. I am going to have to listen to you.

I know! I will try to avoid this interaction by staring at my phone. My phone is broken and no longer receives signal of any kind, but you do not know that, Old Man at the Bus Stop. Yes, I do see you out of the corner of my eye. You are staring at me, unblinking like a sexually harassing basilisk, with an expression that you no doubt think is friendly. It is so fixed that I find my eyes sliding toward you. I am caught, like a rabbit by a snake. Like a deer in headlights. Oh no. I have met your gaze. I am frozen, as if you truly were a basilisk.

Ah. Ah. You think that I’m pretty. That’s nice. Maybe I can go back to my phone now. Wait. No. You have amended it to sexy. Where is the bus? The bus is nowhere. The bus is in hell. You are still talking.

Oh good. It’s time for the game where you try to guess my ethnicity by simply naming countries at random. You still have not broken your gaze. I am almost impressed by your ability to go this long without blinking. Truly, I don’t know how you do it. Frankly, I’m also impressed by the apparent store of “exotic” countries you keep in your mind, apparently just for the purpose of shouting them at whatever woman has the misfortune of sitting next to you at the bus stop.

My god. You’re still going. We have made our way from Italy to Egypt, though you have decided that I am definitely not Lebanese, or Greek for some reason.

Your name is Steve. How delightful. Oh good, I’m shaking your hand. That is definitely the thing I wanted to do. I am in no way desperate for an escape from this interaction. The expression on my face is definitely a smile. It is not a grimace. It is not the most uncomfortable expression I’ve ever had on my face. Yes. Yes. You can see teeth, so it’s a smile. That’s right, Steve.

I have mumbled something unclear in response to your request for my name, and you are now calling me Caterina. That’s fine. That is not my name, so that is fine.

We have reached the part of the conversation where you speculate on my knowledge of the difference between French boys and English boys, wink wink nudge nudge, please god kill me now. Yes, I do know what you mean. I know what you mean Steve. You are a 70-something year old man making an oblique reference to the number of penises I may or may not have seen. My queer lady haircut has failed me again. Why did you have to be an old person? I don’t know how to tell old people to fuck off. I am polite and I am nice and I already smiled at you as I sat down, and now I must continue to be friendly until this interaction is over or one of us dies.

Oh look. The bus. The bus. The holy ever-loving bus is coming toward us. You are telling me again how sexy I am. Good. Good. I wouldn’t have wanted to leave this on a note incongruent with the rest of our encounter. No, I do not live around here, Steve. I live far from here. Far, far away from here. So very far, Steve. I am from another land. I must get on the bus now. I must get on the bus and move immediately toward the very back.

Ah good. You’re following me. What a delightful friendship this is, Steve. What joy. Oh, look. I am getting a call. I am getting a call on my phone whose battery is not dead at all. Hello. Hello . . . Mom. Yes, I can talk. I can talk forever.

***

Lead Image: Modified from Flickr/id iom

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