A Woman On The Bus

by Bob Thurber

He was returning home after attending a long wake and a short funeral the first time he saw her; she was all dressed in pink, head to toe—including the plastic barrettes in her hair, her frosty eye shadow, creamy lipstick and slick fingernails. She sat directly across from him in the long seat opposite his at the front of the bus.

He made an entry of the sighting in his notebook. A woman/child made of cotton candy, he wrote.

The next time he saw her she was all dressed in blue with white plastic hoop earrings big as bracelets and he decided she was either a couple years younger or much older than he had initially assumed.

The next time he saw her she was all dressed in pink again. Barelegged, bony kneed, a Band-Aid on her ankle, no laces in her sneakers.

The next time he saw her she wore plaid everything, except for her Buster Brown shoes. She was telling a man with a brown cap that she had released her equity, consolidated her assets, become bullish on America.

The next time he saw her she was humming holiday music. Brahms, he thought.

The next time he saw her she and the driver were chatting, both sipping from identical white Styrofoam cups that were giving off steam from whatever they held within.

The next time he saw her she asked if he could spare a sheet from his notebook and when he gave her a blank page she tore off just a corner and handed the rest back. A moment later she asked if she could use his pen. Later he saw her give the folded scrap to the driver.

The next time he saw she seemed jumpy, out of sorts; she kept touching her hair.

The next time he saw her she was pregnant but not by much.

The next time he saw her she was telling the bus driver that he was a good and decent man, a super nice guy, but would never be able to keep her in the way to which she had become accustomed.

The next time he saw her she just smiled. Not at him so much as everyone while she rubbed her belly like it was a magic lantern.

The next time he saw her she was no longer pregnant, which he thought rather odd.

The next time he saw her she was in obvious pain, bent forward, clutching her belly, as though pressed sore by heavy affliction.

The next time he saw her, she was quite composed.

The next time he saw her, she said, “That is the most wonderful news I have heard in a long time. Good for you. What a blessing. Congratulations.” She wasn’t looking at him or at anyone; her eyes in fact were closed and he had no idea whom she was addressing.

The next time he saw her she was sitting up close to the driver and he heard her whisper, “Because you say so. No sir, I do not think so.”

The next time he saw her she said to a child sitting on a mother’s lap “You’re not really a little monster are you?”

The next time he saw her, she said hello, or at least her lips formed the shape of that sound and her tongue clicked both syllables.

The next time he saw her she told him she was surprised, shocked, stunned, flabbergasted. He didn’t inquire whom or what she meant.

The next time he saw her she was with another woman, an older woman not quite old enough to have been her mother but perhaps an aunt or older sister, and they were both dressed in basic black with pillbox hats that sprouted long veils big as mosquito nets.

The next time he saw her he was sure she was dying though quite unofficially, and entirely without permission.

The next time he saw her, she looked lovelier, more beautiful than ever, more so than the first sighting, which didn’t seem possible, and so he decided he was merely dreaming about her. Again.

The next time he saw her, she told him that she wanted to be no more than friends.

The next time he saw her, she seemed completely withdrawn.

The next time he saw her she rose from her seat and signaled to the driver, and the bus moved away with its doors still open before he could catch up.

The next time he saw her she was rather aloof, and when he told her he was keeping notes, a record of sorts, then opened the notebook to read a few sentences she told him to please shut up because she didn’t feel at all like talking and the sun’s glare was giving her a headache.

So he moved to a seat further back and shut his eyes which took a great deal of effort, one that required more energy than it should; so much energy that the effort to keep them closed left him drained, weak, empty.

Which led him to believe the entire affair must have been less than true love, no more than infatuation.

Which in turn led him to reflect on the very first time he had seen her, that morning after the funeral, though for the life of him he could not now remember who had passed away.

The last time he saw her she was nude on the moon, just her silhouette highlighted in gray shadow, but still, anyone could see she was a witch, a hag, an incubus in her ugliest form. And he took that as a warning.


Bob Thurber is an old, unschooled writer widely published in literary journals, magazines, and on the Internet. He resides in Massachusetts. His short story, “The Cat Who Waved,” appeared in Issue #5 of The Cafe Irreal; “Shuteye” appeared in Issue #15; “The Bartender Story” appeared in Issue #32; and “You Don’t Belong Here” appeared in Issue #34. Paperboy, his first novel, was released in May of 2011.