SUMMER 2017 SECOND PLACE
Three stops before the bus arrives near my home and I’m sitting on my hands to discipline my fingers into good behaviour. The lady sitting in front of me has her chestnut hair in a loose chignon. Each section curls around the next like strips of bacon nestling together in a pan. Little wisps escape and beckon me. My fingers yearn to trace over the shapes and smooth the hair into place. I bend forwards to apply more pressure to my trapped hands. As I do, I smell the remnants of her day and the shadow of last night.
My husband is perplexed. He misunderstands my tenderness for others, as of course a man would. Whilst he stomped about this morning, I noticed how deeply the ridges in his forehead indented; canyons carved from three years of marriage. The muscles of his forearm flexed with every other word, which boomed, sending capital letters rocketing into the air. I nodded along as I watched NEVER and MUST and EMBARRASSING ping against the wall and change direction like a neglected DVD player.
One stop away from home. I distract myself from the lady’s hair by pressing my feet to the floor of the bus. Vibrations hum up my legs. All the passengers sway to the bass of the engine as the bus bounces along the unloved road. We are connected in rhythm.
Perched on his mother’s lap, an infant stares at his own wiggling fingers. He dribbles with delight in the moment that is only now. I roll out my tongue. He copies and we both giggle. His mother yanks a cloth from her bag and dabs at his saliva, tutting to teach him of shame.
We approach the bus stop near my house. Habit tells me to stand. I cross my feet over one another and stay seated, staring at their capacity to choose. I squeeze my eyes so that rows of shops and buildings blur into a cartoon of colour. My muscles exhale. Seventeen of us rock gently together as the rumble becomes a roar, the landscape changing from greys to green, green, green.