Marti's Theory

Archive for the ‘Short Fiction’ Category

the-rideWith the exception of taxicabs and an occasional subway, it had been years since she took public transportation. Lori was visiting her friends for the week and loved how their house was on the suburban/city transit route. So on that Thursday morning, she ignored the rental car and headed towards the bus stop with the advertisement emblazoned bench.

Autumn…she thought as she watched the jewel toned leaves swirl around her feet. “I miss Autumn.” Lori said it aloud, just as her bus pulled up to the curb, unexpectedly smooth for a vehicle so massive. She boarded.

Surprised at the number of passengers, she found a seat next to a woman reading a newspaper. They exchanged quick perfunctory smiles and paid no further attention to each other. The bus was too crowded for proper “people watching” – one of her favorite pastimes – so she allowed her thoughts to wander, brain on autopilot.

With each stop the bus got more crowded until finally passengers were standing in the aisle, trying to not jostle each other. Instinctively she pulled her parts in – knees, shoulders, elbows, ethereal body – to avoid bumping those same parts of the strangers.

It was in this “pulled in” mindset that she first saw him. Or part of him, at least. He was turned three-quarters away from her, wearing khakis and a forest green Izod-type shirt. The cotton knit top was casual and loose-fitting, except for how it stretched across the broad shoulders and the sleeve band around the tricep muscles on his right arm. The way he was able to comfortably reach out and over to hold the hanging loop designed to steady standing passengers, she judged him to be maybe just at 6’ – no taller, but tall enough.

As she watched the arm flex and relax in rhythm to the movements of the bus, she speculated on reasons for the muscles and dark skin. Muscular but on the lean side, with especially toned arms…the woman thought it was more likely due to manual labor than working out. The skin tone could be from the sun (a construction worker?) or due to genetic ancestry. Hispanic? Native American? Polynesian? Or maybe he’s one of those gorgeous beings of undetermined mixed ancestry. His hair was dark brown, cut very short, so it offered no further clues. As a friend recently reminded her, you couldn’t really judge ancestry that way. But in this case, her fascination with ¾ of her mystery man got the best of her.

The bus stopped suddenly, causing a few of the standing passengers to nearly lose their balance. “Her” man reacted quickly to steady the arm of an older gentlemen standing next to him. As he turned to do so, he glanced up, right into the path of Lori’s gaze. The unexpected and accidental eye contact gave her a start …BUSTED.

But then he smiled. Warm, open and without guile or even surprise – the smile coming from his eyes as much as from his mouth. His attention continued a few seconds, as though he had a comment and was calculating the distance and din to determine whether it was worth trying to speak. Lori could feel herself returning the smile.

Just then a package-laden shopper began to make her way up the aisle to the door. The man moved to the side to allow her to pass, but after she had done so, a teenager took his original standing place, eliminating any chance of verbal communication.. The man looked back at the her and smiled with an “oh well” kind of shrug and chuckle, before facing the front once again.

But now Lori was fully engaged. As she watched his well defined backside move with the rhythm of the bus, she imagined what it might look like under the khakis. She notice that his hand was now holding a different loop, and fixated on that hand once again. What might it be like, close up? Is it calloused? Soft? And how would it feel against…her thoughts trailed off as she noticed him reach for the bell line. He’s getting off the bus at the next stop, she thought, never to be seen by her again.

As he pulled the line, he slowly turned back, looking at her again with the same warm and open smile. Could it be her imagination, or was that an invitation? Oh my goodness – could she DO that? It was so unlike her.

Actually, she thought to herself, just getting off the bus would be fine. For all he knew, that could be her stop as well. She could nonchalantly stroll down the sidewalk, giving him a polite smile as he passed. Maybe he’d speak, maybe not. If not she could just keep walking, knowing she at least took a shot. And if he did speak, then…

The bus swooped into the curb for the next stop. This is it – now or never. Her heart beat in double time as she tried to find the courage to stand. Do it! She told herself. Just fucking DO IT! She would never know for sure, and would always wonder. Take the shot. Stand up now.

She peered into the crowd of passengers, looking for him. She saw him at the door, as he walked down the steps, head turned in her direction as though he was looking for her.

The doors closed with a pneumatic whish and the bus began to move. Looking passed her seatmate, she saw him on the sidewalk. They made contact one last time, as the bus pulled away.

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On that unbearably sultry day in July, the woman smiled while she folded the last towel. “Humid. They don’t know from humid. 85 degrees with 71% relative humidity…they couldn’t handle this.” Weather to melt by, that’s what she called it.

Finished with the laundry, she moved to the other project – cleaning out the luggage, the closet and the memorabilia folder – alternating among all three. She found, remembered and then tossed each item into one bag or the other. Goodwill or Garbage; no in between. Nothing was going to make the cut today.

Catching a glimpse of herself in the bedroom mirror, she paused to survey the reflection. The pile of clothing on the dresser partially blocked her view. Well, it saved her, really, from the reality of the middle age upper arm waddle that she so hated. Instead, her eyes were met only by a direct and purposeful gaze and well sculpted tan shoulders that strained at the olive green tank top that her eyes decided to match in color today. Having a generally awful reaction to mirrors, she was surprised to note that this glance was actually pleasing. “Thank you, pile of clothing” she thought. Her Too Humid Today Glisten only added to the illusion of fitness. She smiled at herself and winked, then returned to the task at hand.

By now her project had taken on ritual proportions and she wouldn’t stop until she was finished. She couldn’t.

Tomorrow she would hit life running. Work, community, kid – would all be clamoring for her time and attention. Order would come from the chaos, and life would continue, as though never interrupted. It would be rather pleasant and generally upbeat. If all went well, she’d have renewed drive, cobwebs would be shaken off and she’d be ready to plan out the next phase of her life. But today she knew where she wanted to be and why.  And it wasn’t here.



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