The Girl On The Bus
Brian Patrick Heston
___I was coming to the end of my junior year at Saint Steven’s Catholic High School for boys. In my mind, I was already a senior. I had been imagining college since I was a sophomore, never letting it dawn on me that D students do not get to go to college. Though, I did like to read—Romeo and Juliet, the Biography of Alexander the Great, and Augustine’s “Confessions” being some of my favorites. But none of my desires translated in the classroom; Algebra or the cell structure of an onion may as well have been Chinese for all I knew. I didn’t have to wait long for the bus. It came quickly, which meant I wouldn’t miss the public school girls with their tight-fitting jeans and half-tops and the smirking uninterested way they looked at the world.
___The bus filled up with students at each stop—public-school-boys and catholic-school-boys, along with the public-school-girls and Catholic school girls, all chattering away loudly, as though every word they said needed to be heard by everyone on the bus. Two girls got on at Somerset Street and immediately looked at me. Jose got on with them. They were from his neighborhood, so he always talked to them before he sat with me. The one girl I had seen many times. She had hair dark as velvet and skin that had the color and consistency of coffee. Everything she wore was tight, conforming to the winding landscape of her body. Many times Jose would nudge me, saying, “There’s your girl, man. Go get her.”
___This was hard, considering that for all the hundreds of times I watched her, she didn’t look at me once. Which is what made it so strange when her and her friend got on, staring at me the whole way to the seats in the back, where the public school kids had made a regular place. Jose had once been in public school, too. Like my parents, his had managed to save enough money every year to keep him in Catholic school.
___“Yo,” Jose said. “Your girl smiling. She vibing you, man.”
___Her large strawberry lips sparkled at me. Her brown eyes wouldn’t leave me. So I couldn’t argue with Jose when he told me that she liked me.
___“Come on. Go at it player.” Jose smiled.
___Jose had the sort of smile that suggested things but never hinted to what he was suggesting. I stood up, making my way over to the two girls. They watched me the whole way, smiling and laughing. The girl with the coffee skin was slouched back against the seat with her legs spread apart. The other girl was a white girl with hair dyed a luminescent blond. She was sitting straight up in the seat with her legs crossed. Both had hoop earrings dangling down to their shoulders.
___“What up,” I said.
___“What up,” they giggled.
___“You go to Jefferson, right?”
___“That’s right.” More giggling.
___If I looked back at Jose, I am sure he would have been laughing his ass off.
___“Your smile reminds me of Communion,” I said to the girl with coffee skin. I never knew what to say to girls and always ended up saying the first thing that came into my head, which was usually the wrong thing. But I knew I had to say something to get her to notice me. A girl like this, I thought, didn’t go a day without some guy telling her how beautiful she is, or how his heart burns every time he sees her, or that he will die if he has to go another day without knowing what it’s like to kiss her. So, I had to take drastic measures.
___“What?” She asked.
___“You know, how when you go to Communion—after, you feel good inside, clean, like everything will be okay?”
___She laughed. But the blonde girl didn’t. She turned her eyes down and folded her hands on her lap.
___“Yo,” Jose said from behind me. “We got to get.”
___He sounded like he was pushing back laughter.
___“Ah-ight,” I said. “You’re on the bus all the time, so I see you again, right?”
___“Oh, yeah, yeah,” the girl with coffee-skin said, laughing.
___I heard one of their voices from behind me as I walked away.
___“I’m Theresa, but everyone calls me T,” the blond girl said.
___“I’m Pat,” I said.
___“Come on, man,” Jose yelled.
___T smiled. I smiled then ran from the bus before the doors closed. Inside I felt as though I had become a man. I was winning races in track. I was made captain. On weekends I had places to go with Jose and George. And now this girl I had wanted to talk to, I talked to. Whatever it was that had to happen to me had finally happened.
___Jose and me stepped into the warmth of new spring. There were clouds forming on the horizon, that dark way it gets when it’s going to rain. Our all-boys Catholic high school rose from the distance like a baton. I looked back at the passing bus, hoping to see my girl inside, but I didn’t. When the bus was gone, that’s when Jose turned to me.
___“Yo, P.” He bent over, laughter pouring out of him. “I forgot to tell you, there’s bird shit on your shoulder.”
___At first, I didn’t understand him. Then I remembered last weekend, Jose, George and me had got up a game on Newts Court. There were girls practicing on the soccer field. Jose kept making moves to impress them. When he went up to attempt a dunk, I grabbed his long Chicago bull shorts and pulled them to his ankles. That day I found out that Jose didn’t wear underwear. The girls laughed and hooted.
___Jose laughed and ran ahead. “Son, you know better than to fuck with daddy,” he yelled back.
___I caught up to him and grabbed him, raising my fist as though I was going to hit him. I laughed.
___“I can’t believe you did that shit.”
___“I didn’t even have to do nothing,” he said. “It was like divine intervention and shit.”
___“Bet,” I said. “Wait ‘till next time.”
___We walked toward school. The sky continued to darken. Rain was definitely coming—typical April weather.
___“For real, though,” I said. “You think she like me.”
___“Nah. That girl think you a fool.”
___“Damn, man. Don’t hold back. Tell me what you really think.”
___“The blond girl?”
___“Yeah. But I wouldn’t fuck with her. She like a lot of people.”
___This last thing he said, I didn’t hear. All I heard was that she liked me. I had liked many girls but had gotten with none of them. Walking down streets, going to parties, and going to track meets on the weekends was like going to a movie, a movie filled with girls I watched and listened to. Now I had made a move, though. A girl liked me. What else was there to think about?
___“Maybe I’ll be the one she like the most.”
___“It ain’t about that. Look, man. She—she need a lot of dudes around. Like, she need to be told she all that twenty-four-seven. My boy, Pete, ah-ight. You know Pete, right? He was going with her for a year. Loved her ass, you know. She’d hang out with him, acting as though he the only dude in the world for her, like he the only dude who ever lived. And Pete couldn’t help but love her, man. But everything wasn’t right with her. Weird shit, like she say she coming over but never getting there. Not answering her phone for days. Then one day answering like nothing was the matter. This made him crazy.
___“He still with her?”
___“Nah, man. Pete’s moms moved him away. Sent him to like South Carolina or some shit to live with his aunt to keep him out of trouble. Did it mainly because of Therese, too. So stay away from that girl.”
___“What if she steps to me?”
___“Yeah. She that way. You showed her something she like, and T ain’t never walked away from something she like.”
___“So what do I do? No one ever stepped to me before.”
___“If it was me, I wouldn’t hear nothing she was saying. But you won’t listen. You making yourself ready for her and don’t even know it. That girl has you. It doesn’t take much, man, with any of us.”
___“What should I do?”
___“You already know.”
___“What if I don’t love her? Then I could just not care what she does.”
___“You will, man. Probably already do.”
___We made it to school just as rain broke from the sky. We stepped through the doors that led into the lunchroom, soaked. I asked Jose if the rain had washed my shirt, and he said it had. Outside I was cold. But inside I was warm as I let my mind wander freely over the girl who liked me.
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