I hate Bus Tracker. I hate you. Bus Tracker can suck it, and the CTA can suck it, and the Western bus can suck it, and they can all have a suck party together where they sit around and fucking suck. And I will make winter my bitch without their help. I shove my hands into pockets and kick invisible dirt just to get the blood flowing. Frozen jeans sting my calves because they are HORSESHIT. I kick through some snow out into the street and look southward. There is no bus.
There should have been a bus six...no...seven minutes ago. It should have stopped right where I'm standing and I should be riding it to my goddamn party, because Bus Tracker told me it would be here. This is the last fucking time I trust that piece of shit website. Maybe I should take a cab.
Impossible. Expensive and impossible.
After six or seven more minutes, the bus stop fills up with more commuters taking advantage of the New Years Eve penny rides. I give some of them directions to their party on whatever crossroads. The bus arrives. People who've been here for two minutes try to muscle their way to the front of the pack.
They probably usually take the train. I don't like it when train people get on the bus. Bus people wait their turn, they remember who was at the stop before them. There's an unspoken boarding hierarchy amongst bus riders. But these fucking train people got no respect. They don't care that I've been freezing for over ten minutes in temperature that's half that.
Once safely on board, all of us passengers do that thing where we're fake polite to each other, professing that we don't require only available seat, really, it's not necessary. You should take it. No, I insist. Sit down. Take it.
Really, of course, we don't want to sit next to the sleeping garbage bag man who smells like hopeless homelessness, but that's it, of course. We have important parties to go to, with alcohol packages and pulled pork. We don't want gutter stench on our new jeans. It's not because he's black. No, really. Do people think we're racist because we don't want to sit next to the stanky homeless man? Because if he was white we wouldn't want to sit there either.
The bus jolts and rocks back, and I fall into the empty seat, but I totally make it look like I meant to sit down. Seriously. The smelly guy twitches, and I catch a moldy hospital bracelet on his wrist. What was he in there for? How long has that been on his arm? There's some sort of fungal infection thing growing on his fingernail - did he go to the hospital for that?
The guy on the other side of me is talking abrasively on the phone to his daughter. April. "Happy New Year, April! Of course you're my favorite daughter. April, honey, daddy wants to know if you need a piano? Well, I got one lined up if you need it, and April? You know what? It's only three years old. Yap. It's a nice one, April. Daddy thinks you would like it. I just want the best for my girl." The whole thing is very annoying. Who uses someone's name so often in a conversation? Why does he refer to himself in the third person? Why isn't there a rule that people with thin-pitched voices are legally required to have their larynx removed and thrown in a jar?
I feel like an asshole. I can't think about anything except that rotten smell raping my nose, the shrill discord of that man's voice. I feel guilty for having running water and superb intonation, and then I feel guilty for having guilt, and then I feel like an asshole again and tell myself to suck it up, when someone touches my knee. It's April's dad.
"Hey there," he smiles. "You wouldn't be innerested in a pinball machine?"
"S'just that I have this pinball machine, see, and I was gonna give it to my daughter, but she don't have room, see. So you wannit?"
"I don't think I have a place to keep a pinball machine."
"Oh, I'm sure you could figger it out."
"I don't think I could afford a pinball machine."
"Well you won't really have to pay for it, you see, cuz I got it fer free. I figger you could throw me fifty bucks - cash or check, I ain't picky - and then we'd work it out from there. What's yer address?"
"Ahhhh - no," I laugh, "I'm not sure I want it."
"Well it's a perfectly good machine, almost new. The lady who gave it to me is moving, see, and she had a pinball machine and a piano to get rid of because daughter sliced off her hands."
"Yeah, pretty spooky? Yeah, both of 'em, yeah, they got sliced right off in a car accident or something, but I guess this little girl used to be something of a fishindo. A-uh-fishiando. Fishiando. Affishianado."
"And so now this poor little girl loses both of 'er hands, and her mom wants ta get rid o' the piano and the pinball machine what remind her o' havin' hands."
"Heavy, huh? Makes you think. But this little girl has got some of those posterpedic hands now, you know?"
"That's the one, and they snap right on at her wrists and hold onto her nerve endings and they look real, you know? But she can move fingers and everything. They look so real." He leans towards me, quieting his voice slightly. "Guess how much they cost? Huh?" He licks his lips and leans back haughtily. "Twenty fucking grand apiece."
He nods. "Yep. Twenty fucking grand. Each. Per a la hand!"
"And she still can't play pinball."
"No ma'am, she don't want to. Reminds her of back when."
"Wow." I nod, and look out the window, trying to gauge how much longer it'll take for me to get to the bar and get my drink on. Soon.
"'So what d'ya say? I could drop 'em off at yer place on Saturdee."
"I don't think so." I don't want your cursed pinball machine, sir. I like having hands. I consider asking him what kind of pinball machine, as if that would make a difference at all, and decide that the less I say the better.
"Ya sure? Fifty bucks. I need the money now, though, you know. Make sure you're legit."
I can't believe this. "Maybe. You got a card?"
"You know what? No, I do not. I should though, but I left all of 'em at my office."
"Uh huh." I nod. One more stop. The homeless guy next to me shifts slightly. "Well, I get off at the next stop."
"Ya still sure? You could just give me your phone number and address. Will you be home on Saturdee?"
"I'm really not interested," I shake my head and pull the stop cord. "Happy New Year, though."
"Okay, well, happy New Year to you too, young lady."
I smile, steel my arms, and start bullying my way off the bus.