E. Shaskan Bumas
The gps on my phone says the 119 bus to work will arrive in 5. What looks like close-quotation marks above the 5 means the figure comes from a live signal and not some ideal schedule. I’m on time this morning, which shouldn’t be as hard as it is; it’s not like I sleep late. It’s not like I sleep much at all. It’s not like I’ll ever get caught up with work. I’ll get a seat, some work done, squeeze into the wall, bouncy penmanship, or read the paper in case something happened since I turned off the radio and left.
The bus will come from the east, but I can barely squint into the rising sun, so I turn away, round the corner to examine my phone in the doorway of Mike’s Mexican and American, which, until rent rose to $3000.00 used to be Gloria de México and so much better. I must always know the cost of everything. The bus is $1.60, a real bargain, and now 7 minutes away.
The 119 bus route goes down Central and after a brief stop in the Journal Square mother ship, continues down JFK, and is now 9 minutes away. I know south isn’t really down. Our planet commutes through space, like so many of the planets we know.
I could have taken the 87 bus that’s approaching out of the sun. The 87 goes up Palisade, and at Ferry crosses over to Central, too, on to Journal Square of course, most routes lead to, and eventually down MLK. The 87 is more crowded, harder to get work done on. The 87 takes the corner and keeps going. There are far more 87 buses than 119s. The 87 stops closer to the apartment but much farther from work.
Standing still is one of the things I’m not good at, so I walk to the next stop—no bus approaching—and then the next. At least I’ll get some exercise. The 119 bus is 15 minutes away. At the next stop, I don’t see the bus, so I keep going.
At Central, I consult my phone and the bus is a half hour away and I’m walking faster and the breeze feels good. I’ve got time. I could stop here for a $5 espresso that tastes like beans. $4 but you gotta tip. Then again I had coffee at home and don’t want to overdo it.
I hurry past where Ralph’s Tavern used to be, where my parents took me as a kid though I was always bored, and they probably shouldn’t have; where Cinco de Mayo used to be, though why a bakery celebrated a holiday for beer companies was beyond me. The deli has coffee and egg on a roll for $1. That’s reasonable. More, with cheese or bacon. If I’d known the bus would be so late, I would’ve made another cup. Do I even like coffee? Does it taste like coffee ice cream?
By the next stop I’m jaunty, and that’s when I look at my phone. It occurs to me—5 minutes to go, then 7, 9, 30, and now 46 minutes before the bus arrives—time is going backward. Is that possible? Theoretically, I guess.
I rub my chin, and it’s smooth, no stubble, though there was no time to shave this morning. This is like my ugly high school face cringing at itself, a little high, though I smoked nothing, not in the stairwell, swear. Someone shoots into the principal’s office, hole in the window; principal takes it out on us. Fistfights in the hall, spilling onto the street, hundreds of fists, and from a bush someone grabs a machete, and we run through honking traffic to a long line at the pizzeria. Uniforms. If some gang took tan and magenta for its colors it’d have instant membership of millions.
These days the cars are so big and tall. Even that compact. The 119 bus is 2 hours away. All the mothers and grannies are my size and the girls are immense. I haven’t been this height since Middle School, a bully in every corridor, a disappointed teacher, unprepared, unflossed, unbrushed, unshowered, unbearable, and why couldn’t I be more like my big sister? And that makes me cry, and nobody cries in middle school but me, but it wasn’t uncommon in elementary school, which was safer. Kids on the teacher’s lap, not me, the cuter kids, not the class clown, but it was a class full of class clowns, so I cried. A first grader with a gun. Out in the yard doing dances that called for the swinging of partners, dances we’d never danced before and would forget till next year at this time, dances our parents never heard of. Doing math with my fingers. It’s his dad’s gun. The dances are ridiculous. And so am I. It’s loaded. We learn the same math every year. The gun’s for show and tell. I move away, down the street, and I don’t know what’s come over me, but I just can’t stand. I slide down the side of a car. I crawl down the street, my huge bag weighing me down. Towering people look on like disapproving aliens. I can’t tell time. But the 119 has disappeared from my gps app. Lots of 87s. What the hell was time other than the feeling that I soon wouldn’t be a baby anymore, I soon wouldn’t have been born if I can just keep going. I’m at the reservoir now, Central and Ferry, and crawling is harder. I love time. The 87 bus pulls up. The bus kneels while I climb the stairs. I’ll not get any work done on this bus as it speeds toward Journal Square, toward job, already bouncing us as it crashes down the avenue with explosions of road and metal—pot holes constant here—as though they were formed from dropped bombs aimed at the bus.