And there we were. Standing on the corner of First and Adams, waiting for the bus to arrive. The way she leaned up against the street lamp, infinite scarf hanging off her neck—did she make that herself, I wondered, but thought better than asking her because she seemed too self-involved with that cigarette pressed lightly on her ruby red lips. I dared not to speak a word to her, though we lived several endings in my mind. I wondered often where she got off or where she was leaving. Making a conversation with such a beautiful woman, unheard of! No, better just coax my time. Wait until a moment arrived and have something pithy to say to her because she seemed the type of girl who wanted a man who knew his way around the words, not the stuttering bastard that I can transform into whenever I open my mouth. It didn’t matter who I spoke to. Not really. Close friends still had me up against the wall when it came to speaking, but they didn’t know. They thought it was all part of my personality, though, in a way, I guess they’re not exactly all wrong. Still no matter how much time I spent around a person, beautiful or not—interesting or banal—I still froze up in the mouth and sputtered out words like a helicopter zipping by.
Once I thought I offer her some sort of mint. Did I really want to come off as the guy who carried mints in his pocket? The type of schmuck who ate garlic and onions for his lunch? The sort of guy who knew his halitosis reached the farthest nose in the office? The type cheapskate who picked up women at seedy bars and sprayed Binaca before introducing himself to the women who just came in for a quick drink—‘Ello dere, babe, sprits sprits, soy Carlito. You wan ta have dee sexo con migo? And where would I get mints, anyway? I didn’t carry any, though there were some tucked the top drawer back at the office for those just in case moments.
Twice already she looked my way and smile. That smile of hers sent grown men to see therapists because they’d never seen something so amazing and beautiful before, and feared they would never experience anything that topped it. What’s the point, Doc? One look at that smile and I knew my life was over. Over, I tell you. Over, Doc. I gave her my best half smirk. The sort of smirk that should say that I’m available for a conversation, but wouldn’t know where to begin because nothing can distract me away from that smile of yours. Such a beautiful smile.
The forecast threatened rain, but she didn’t carry an umbrella. This made me feel a bit insecure about mine. How does one hold an umbrella while waiting for a bus in a dignified fashion? Resting on my shoulder like a continental soldier? Tip pressed against the ground with my body sort of leaning upon it? Tuck it underneath my arm while I made small talk about the clouds overhead?
Three cars sped by. Two of them honking their horns and shouting obscenities at her. She seemed unfazed, but I felt my blood simmering beneath my skin. Who did those chumps think they were? Where do they get off talking like that to a lady, to this woman? If I had the nerve, I’d…what? What would I do? Certainly not go speeding after them. Certainly not shouting an obscenity at them. No. No. Dear little old me would never hurt a fly even if that fly deserved it. I gave her a weak smile, an apology for my sex. Don’t think nothing of it. They’re not worth the misery. Don’t give a second thought. Because that’s the kind of woman she was. Even acknowledging bottom feeders in muscle cars gave them the satisfaction of gaining one’s attention. Ignoring them just injured their egos. Sure they might speak louder, become more offensive, but they wouldn’t break you. Wouldn’t get what they’re after. And that made you stronger. I marveled at her genius. At her strength. At her ability to stand taller, sail higher than anyone I’ve ever met. Oh yes, this woman. With her smile. And her courageousness. This woman excelled all other women in my life.
The drop landed on my nose. For a second, I froze thinking some bird, flying by, had decided to use my head as a porta-potty. The second drop fell. And a third. And before I could count a forth, the rain came down heavy. Even in the white noise of it all, I heard her tiny curse. How had she not brought an umbrella? How could she not think this far ahead? Or maybe she didn’t have good enough fortune to own one? Or maybe the one she owned was lost in transit some weeks ago? And while I pondered the workings of her mind, the opportunity presented itself to me with neon flashing lights. This was my chance to break the ice. To make that first move and spark up a conversation with her. And we’d lose ourselves in each other’s words. And she’d playfully slap my chest when I’d say something funny and utter something in the lines of, You’re just too much, Phil. Just. Too. Much. And I’d shake my head and waggle my brows and we’d board the bus hand in hand and sit on the only empty seat at the back of the bus and just lean into each other, still laughing, and thinking about where we go from there. And I would learn what she did for a living—a nanny for two snotty little brats who lived uptown with their tyrannical mother and pushover father, but she only did this while she saved up enough money to open the vintage record and book store. And I’d tell her about my job, explaining how it was only temporary even though I was entering my fifth year. And we’d fall in love at that exact moment. And we’d never look back.
Before I even fumbled with my umbrella, the bus—the number nine—pulled up and opened its doors. She trotted inside, leaving me standing alone in the rain. I smiled at the bus driver and boarded.
“Oh well,” I said. “Maybe next time.”
A quick note about this piece. It’s unedited. It’s just a stream of conscious piece that I typed while listening to a jazz radio station on Google Play Music. Even though it was typed on the spot without any planning, I was inspired by something I heard today on a podcast about how we tend to “draw conclusions about someone from the most superficial evidence.” Maybe in the future, I’ll come back and revisit this stream of consciousness and feed it more. Who knows. The podcast that inspired this piece is linked below.