Jim sashayed up to the bus stop, his shoulder bag swinging in time to his rhythm, his bowler hat tipped to the left. He smoothed his pinstripe jacket with both hands, then wiped his palms on his jeans. He had spotted her. Mid forties, platinum hair, pencil skirt. Office worker. In one fluid move, he had closed the gap before she even had time to look up from her bus schedule. Then, he slipped an arm around her waist touching the curve of her back, and pressed his lips to hers. She made a noise of surprise, then responded with years of pent up desire.
He peeled her off with a light touch on her shoulder. He had spotted her again: five four and black with red weaved through her dark braids. Glasses. No worries. She was walking towards the bus stop, each foot crossing the path of the other. He sidled up and stood in her path, stopping her. He looked down at her and gave his best boyish smile. Then he moved his face to hers. Closer. Closer. Her glasses steamed up and her breathing came: heavy, heavy. She pulled back from him and he could see her melt in his grin. He spun her around and watched her continue on her way, her tempo not so smooth now.
He saw her a third time, leaning against the bus shelter with her eyes closed. Engrossed in her music. Late teens, a few years younger than him. Blue-black hair, dyed. Nose piercing. He swooped over and touched her chin with the tips of two fingers, pushed her face up until her green eyes met his. He saw a slight flush wash over her freckled cheeks. Then his lips met her slightly parted mouth.
The bus came. Jim pulled away and their lips gave a final wet smack. He hopped onto the bus, his trainers making no sound, and left her staggering aboard behind him. He glided down the aisle and took a seat near the back, all eyes looking up as he passed.
The bus rumbled on to the next stop. The drone of conversation fell as a man got on, six four and built like an ox, his trapezius muscles sloping from shoulder to heavy set jaw, with no neck in between. Dark curly chest hair poked out from above a pink silk leotard, his hairy forearms hanging on either side of a pale pink tutu. He sat down across the aisle from Jim and placed his lunch pack on his knee, guarding it with carpeted knuckles. The schoolboys behind sniggered.
“He must be queer,” one whispered.
The words bounced off the man’s hairy back and he made no movement, but Jim could see his glistening eye.
“You ignoring us?” asked the first. “What you wearing that stuff for? You mental or what?”
Jim looked over his shoulder at the boys and the boys looked back.
“Here mister, lend us your hat so we can throw up in it,” said the second boy to Jim, and they both guffawed.
Jim looked back to the huge man and down to the plastic pack on his knee. Spaghetti in tomato sauce. Probably last night’s leftovers. A flask of beverage. He slipped his hand across the aisle and touched the man’s hand. The man’s eye continued to glisten, but he didn’t take his gaze off the view ahead. His sausage-like fingers flinched and released their grip, letting Jim take the container in the palm of his hand.
Jim stood up and flipped the lid off the spaghetti. The boys looked up at him, their eyes round with anticipation. Then he took off his bowler hat, tipped the contents into it and dumped it on the nearest boy’s head.
Spaghetti dripped onto the kid’s shoulders and both boys sat in shocked silence. Jim unscrewed the flask and poured strawberry milkshake over the second boy’s head.
The boys jumped up and fled the bus. As it took off with a hiss of exhaust, they ran behind, yelling. Jim watched his bowler hat hit the back window, smearing the glass with orange spaghetti. The huge man still had his eyes fixed ahead. Jim reached into his jeans pocket and extracted a five pound note. Then he leaned across the aisle and pushed it into the man’s balled up fist.
He stood up and zigzagged to the front of the bus, preparing to get off. As he waited, holding onto the hand rail above, his eyes moved upwards to the baggage rack where a little old man was half-awake, curled among the luggage.
The little man raised his head a fraction and looked from Jim’s feet up to his head. He pulled his skinny knees closer to his chest and plumped up his bag-pillow with a bony knuckle.
Jim glanced at the bus driver, who appeared not to have noticed a thing. The other passengers on the bus continued talking, reading, daydreaming. Jim looked back to the skinny little man and noticed his dirty duffel coat, the stuffing coming through the seams and the toggles hanging by threads.
As the bus started to slow, Jim lifted the flap of his shoulder bag up and brought out a chorizo and melted cheese sandwich. He ripped it in half. In quarters. Then he raised his hand, with a piece between finger and thumb, and tossed it into the baggage rack. The little old man caught it in his open mouth. The bus slowed, slowed and stopped. Jim got off at his stop.
Leilanie Stewart is half-filipino, half-Irish and lives in London. Her work has previously appeared in Carillon, Monomyth and Blood Moon Rising under her former surname.