On the bus


I’ve missed the bus. I slowly make the realization as it becomes half past ten and I find myself still stranded on the bus-stop, wondering how many minutes I shall be late today; how many leaps and jogs I’ll be forced to make instead of natural, balanced walking; how many times I shall run out of breath while chasing some vehicle or run out of patience while stuck in traffic or possibly even run out of money, more money as I …

She saves me from the self-destructive thoughts with her arrival. Sleeky yet rigid, she takes up her place by the big yellow sign, digging in her purse for the thick, dark book she’s been reading since two weeks. The obvious creases of her purple coat tell me her wardrobe’s condition is no better than mine. As usual, the tiny dust particles which have eagerly accumulated on her black, leather shoes are significant of the relatively long trip she makes on foot to get to the bus station from her home.

She must be renting some cheap apartment nearby; how would she afford to live in the capital otherwise? That is, if she’s really as poor as I think she is, or honestly as I want her to be, so that we can meet halfway.

Another look at my cell’s clock; 10:45. Five more minutes and the next bus shall be here. And just before I remind myself with their existence, I hear their loud laughter only to be alerted in advance. They approach with their usual energy, all six of them, turning the bus-stop from the most deserted to the most lively in the blink of an eye.

Yet, as they get nearer by, I can better inspect and in turn clearly confirm that not all of them are enjoying their morning. My favorite couple; the tall, blondish guy and the petite brunette seem to be on the outs today. Or is it my wild imagination tampering with all the different plans I’ve made for them?

The bus finally arrives amid giggles of the festive four. The rest of us just drag our feet upstairs, almost all with one thing on our mind; sleep … or coffee.

It’s the one advantage of living in the middle of nowhere. I think to myself; the same thought I start my day with. The same restive conclusion which helps me provide solace and make peace with my despicable salary.

The super-model-style blonde, the one I’ve nicknamed Laura, presides over the sitting with sheer professionalism. Her hand gesture is all I can make out, though every now and then I can catch up a word or two that my weak English is able to decipher. Sandwich, bus, hotel; I barely recognize them. The rest are either too complicated for my linguistic abilities or entirely foreign in language. The fact that most of their conversations are not even in English has long been established now, after a full week of sharing morning rides with them. It was only yesterday, though, when I was able to confirm that they were speaking some Arab dialect. The couple riding behind me were speaking about them in Italian, one telling the other that she could recognize their dialect as either Syrian or Egyptian.

I like to think that Laura is Egyptian; some ancient goddess with exotic features. The pale face flourished with freckles, the tiny roundish nose, the pair of hazel eyes which go perfectly with her honey-mustard wavy hair and the brilliantly blue mascara she wears. Who would ever wear blue mascara if not an Egyptian goddess?

The sound of her shrill laughter seems to be rocking the entire bus, slowly melting the ice which had inexplicably frozen between the love-birds during my absence. She, the petite brunette whom I reckoned must be called Maria, exercises full cockiness over him; refusing even to maintain eye contact. He, Ascanio, or so I like to believe he is called, seems to have lost patience with her. Only a few minutes ago, at the bus stop, he was trying so hard to make conversation with her, joking in his carefree manner about the bun she’s assembled her hair to, mentioning something about her coat which I took to be a gag about how unnecessarily thick it is.

I try to imagine the circumstances through which she came across to buying that seemingly expensive coat. She must’ve been roaming around some designer mall – do they have designer malls at whichever country they’re coming from? – with daddy’s credit card in her wallet and with fists already clutched around half a dozen designer bags crammed with this season’s latest arrivals when her jaw drops in front of that glossy vitrine with the coffee-brown, chamois coat she’s currently wearing. With narrow collars and large, beige, round buttons at the edge, she could instantly tell that her modest built would fit perfectly into it.

Another desperate attempt at bringing a different shopping trip to life; a failed attempt about how that purple coat worn by my secret admirer was purchased from one of those Asian street vendors spreading their products on the Roma streets; bought even without being tried on. I bet she didn’t even notice its color while struggling with the opportunist vendor to bring down its price by a dozen Euros or so.

“’Would you rather live as upper-class in a poor, third world country, or as lower middle-class in a democratic, developed country?’ That’s what they’re currently discussing.” The woman who had pinned down their dialect to either Egyptian or Syrian had translated their conversation to her partner as such yesterday.

As they break down into some oriental song, totally disregarding the other passangers’s right to a quiet trip to work, I think to myself about how idiotic they are; revolting against their governments only to bring over new governments which resemble ours, coming all the way here to Europe in order to watch and imitate, while the fact is, if they copy us with enough precision, they wouldn’t have enough money to make the visit. What a mess! Such a hypocritical world where everyone only fights for what he doesn’t currently have.

As soon as the song ends, Laura takes back the floor, uttering some quick, incomprehensible phrase only to give the floor back to Maria. For the first time today, Maria throws a quick smile at Ascanio as she speaks in her low, callous voice. It seems like they’re playing some game, for they’re taking turns at delivering their speeches; alternating them in an anti-clockwise direction. Nevertheless, after the flash of a smile he receives, Ascanio disassembles the circle by moving to take the seat next to Maria.

They’ve made out again. I observe to myself, wondering as to when it shall ever be my turn with the girl in the purple coat.

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