I was trying to catch my breath after having sprinted two blocks towards the bus stop. Side to side I looked to see if I had just missed it or if it was yet to come. Nothing. It was 1:45 a.m. and there was no sign that it had ever passed.
“What bus you waiting for?” said a man in a crumpled baby blue cotton track suit.
“The 656,” I replied.
“You know, that bus don’t stop by here no more.”
I didn’t place any validity on what he said because he looked unkempt and disheveled. The tips of his collar curled up, brown and yellow from years of dirt and sweat, and his suit exuded scents of alcohol, marijuana and urine. A group of people passed in between us. The man’s eyes got wider. They were transfixed on the girls’s exposed white legs. Their skirts seemed to be designed to show more skin than fabric. He looked at me and smiled. “I like white girls.”
The man’s name was Clifton and he kept coming up to me as the night progressed, walking up and down the street with a ghoulish gait, asking people for a dollar or 50 cents. Upon receiving nothing but rejection, he would grant them God’s blessing. His warped smile brought me a warped sense of comfort.
“You know, I ain’t from around here,” he said.
“Where are you from?” I asked.
“From Georgia.” The corners of his lips slowly receded from their upward trajectory into the center of his face. They began to quiver. I could see the blood vessels in his eyes offset the white and well up with tears. Clifton had soulful baby blue eyes. They were looking down at his raggedy brown work boots, worn out from too much walking. “After my mom died, ain’t nobody care about me,” he said. I too began to look at his shoes. “I miss my mom.” I could hear him sniffling and slurping.
I looked up. The look in his eyes told me that the look in mine was just what he needed to see. “Excuse me, sir! Do you have 50 cents?” Clifton sprung up excitedly chasing after a passerby. “Alright, sir. God bless.” He continued to walk down the street.
The street bustle began to wane around 3 a.m. Clifton was nowhere to be found. I looked around, walking up and down the street trying to see if I could bump into him. I wish I had a white girl to lure him back with. He had vanished.
I was alone.
I didn’t know what to do or where to go. I didn’t know how to get back home.
At a distance, the stillness and quiet of the empty street was disrupted by the silhouette of a peeing man. I could hear the sound of his urine rushing out of him, splattering on the concrete. The man shook his penis and zipped up his pants. He began to head in my direction, but crossed the street a block before he reached me.
I kept looking at my watch, then at the bus sign, which read “656: Operates from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.” It was now 3:40 a.m. and there was still no sign of it. Clifton was right after all.
“Are you following me?!” yelled a man from across the street. I looked around to see if he was talking to someone else. It took me a moment to realize that the yeller was the same man whose peeing I had been spying on, only now he was more man than silhouette. “I said, why are you following me?!” The man was now on my side of the street.
“I’m…I’m not following you. I’m just waiting for my bus,” I replied.
“I saw you following me,” his voice became louder and huskier with every step he took.
“What?” My legs were frozen. This frost climbed up my torso, hands and arms. It became harder to move the closer he got.
“I don’t give a fuck. I just want you to stop following me!” He violently twisted his waist and rapidly swung his arm towards my face. I had no time to duck or wince. His fist struck me directly on the mouth. Everything went dark.
Kaleidoscopic splotches of throbbing pain pierced through the black that had impaired my vision. The ringing in my ears slowly faded and the man’s incoherent yelling became clearer. “Get the fuck outta here before I pop you again,” he said.
My frozen limbs had finally thawed and I began to retread.
“Yeah, keep running.”
As I ran away, I felt scared. The tips of my fingers were covered in blood after having touched my lips. I could taste the saltiness on them. My teeth hurt when I curled up my tongue to lick them. They were loose. I wanted to kill him but my hands were so shaky that it was difficult for me to make a fist. I heeded his advice and continued to run away to the next block.
I could see a bus coming. I didn’t know to where. It didn’t matter. I hopped on hoping it would take me far away from there.
As I was making my way down the aisle, people were staring at me with concern and disgust. I found a seat at the back of the bus. I wanted to be alone. I kept licking my lips to stop the bleeding and made sure my teeth were still attached. Looking out the window, I could see a distorted reflection of my face. It didn’t look like me because I didn’t feel like me. I was broken.
I leaned my fevered head on the cold glass, closed my eyes and began to cry.