February 5, 2009
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His hand on the glass, pressed up so hard that it was white. Rain dripped down slowly onto it. She slouched down in the small chair, trying to shelter herself from the cascades of water that ran down the roof of the bus stop and onto the ground. The lady in the chair was old and wrinkled. Gravity had finally consumed her skin, pulling it down so harshly that it looked as though strings were attached to it. A young man stood just outside of the stop, the torrent poring out onto his worn trench coat, and trickling into his saturated brown shoes. He didn't seem to notice. He watched the women with interest, as if fascinated with her: she was on the bench, and he was standing outside, they sat apart from each other as if in a Zen garden: two rocks in the sand.

The old lady opened her handbag and pulled out a newspaper. It was folded in half with the corners turned up, as if it had been sitting there for a long time. He squinted through the glass, trying to see the date. December 14th. Today was the 3rd of January. Puzzled, he watched her read. It appeared to him that she read each word carefully and slowly, as if analysing it. As she came to the second paragraph, she narrowed her drooping eyes, and smiled slowly to herself. She had found a mistake. Her distorted hand squirmed quickly back into her handbag and came out with an old pen. She pulled off the cap slowly, again scrutinising her newspaper with interest. Carefully, she propped her old elbow on the empty seat next to her, and scribbled a quick word next to the error.

The man jumped at the loud noise the bus pulling into the stop. He looked away reluctantly, and got onto the bus. As soon as he was on, he went to the back, and looked for the old lady. She was standing in front of the first row, talking to the driver. What was she saying to him? Why was she talking to him? The bus began to move, and the old woman was knocked off balanced and landed in her seat. The man stood and made his way towards her. He sat down in the seat behind her and looked over the back of her seat. She was looking at the same newspaper again, a skeletal finger running back and forth across the page slowly.

The first stop came, and the man jumped once again. What if she were to get off? He placed the palms of his hands flat on either side of him, and pushed himself up to see the door. It opened, waited, and closed. The old lady did not move. The layers of dry skin on her baggy neck swayed slightly as the bus began to move once more. He sat back and sighed. She was still there, in front of him, in his sight, so close that he could almost reach out and touch her. He relaxed his muscles as the bus sped up. Slowly, he rolled his head back and tilted it towards the window. He watched as the raindrops pelted down on the little bus. They were safe. He smiled impassively, and ran his coarse fingers through his matted black hair quickly, wishing he was a raindrop. How nice it would be to come shooting out of a cloud, and run down the side of an old bus, like these ones did. If he was a drop of rain, he would chase people, and not land on them until he was directly above their head. He hated it when raindrops did that. They seemed to like landing in the middle of uncovered heads. They must have devious little minds. His parched lips opened into a small grin. Someday he would meet a raindrop. They would have a long chat about how nice it would be to run so freely as they did. His smile soon turned to a cold grimace as he thought of liberty. It was as if he was ensnared in this world. So many rules, so many regulations. He let his head fall limp between his shoulders. Society was just one big net, catching everyone and never letting them go.

The bus pulled up to its next stop. The man's eyes opened wider. He clasped the sides of the seat nervously, his knuckles turning white. He lowered his eyes and looked over the seat to see the small old lady, who was still studying her newspaper with great interest. He lowered himself slowly, and breathed out. He would get off soon, but she would remain in the hands of the incompetent bus driver. He glowered over at the fat man and squinted his eyes. She would not be safe with him. He leaned forward slowly and looked again at the old woman. This time he was so close he could read the paper. He didn't care what the printed words said: he wanted to know what she had written. He turned his head slightly to see over the woman's shoulder. It was the front page of the paper, and her marks were in the first article. 'Misspelling,' one of them read. The others said things like 'good' and 'incorrect'.

He frowned. He had been hoping it would be more interesting. He looked again at her writing. How nicely the blue lines curved, how perfectly each word placed itself upon the page. He watched her scribble another word next to a date. Her small crooked hand barely fit around the black pen she held. She had dark blue marks on the insides of her middle finger, and on the tip of her thumb, but they looked old, as if they had been there for many years. They almost looked as though they had been tattooed to her hands.

More stops passed, and finally, one stop before his, the old lady lifted herself with a quiet grunt and dragged her wilting body towards the doors. His body jolted as she moved, but he took a deep breath, and followed her. He nodded and smiled to the bus driver as he stepped off. It was still raining when he got outside. He looked up at the sky, the water running into his eyes. He squinted, but continued to look upwards. The sky was like a big empty hole to him, offering nothing but weather and air. Shrugging, he decided that they could not live without it. If they could, he would surely get ride of it. He scowled and turned up the collar of his trench coat. Anxiously, he watched the old lady, waiting for her to be on her way. She walked very slowly, taking each step as carefully as she had read each word on the newspaper. Her back was slouched over, and her feet dragged like an old mop. He crossed the street, and continued to walk parallel to the lady. He watched her carefully, for he had nothing to worry about. No one was around. No one would see him. He thought it was funny that no one liked the rain. His mind wandered again to raindrops. He felt sorry for them, in a way. When they came down, everybody went inside. No one was there to welcome them except him and the old lady. He looked down glumly. If he were a raindrop, he would want people to be outside, so he could land in the middle of their heads.

As he looked up, the old lady turned a corner. He looked around, and crossed the street. Now he was several yards behind her, following her. Their feet fell at the same time, synchronised. He put his hands in his pockets and tried to be invisible. The old lady's coat was a dark asparagus-like colour, and it went down to her ankles. She wore brown, thick shoes that seemed to be several sizes too big for her small feet. The strap of her handbag hung limply in her left hand, bumping against her short leg whenever she took a step. He could not see her hair, for it was covered in a tacky floral shall. Raindrops saturated the outside, making it drip as her body swayed back and forth. The man looked side to side as he walked, watching each house pass. They were all the same, each one designed by the same, dull person. He sniffed indignantly, and straitened his back. She would not have a house like that. Her house was surely different.

The old lady's arthritic legs began to slow, as if she was in slow motion. The man's eyes opened wider, and the hair on the back of his neck seemed to rise. His jaw dropped slightly. He turned around quietly and began to walk briskly in the other direction. When he got to the corner, he looked over his shoulder. The rain ran down his nose and dripped onto his shirt. The lady was continuing to walk, continuing not to notice him. He whipped around, and walked in her direction. Even when he tread softly, his feet splashed against the accumulated water, making sharp, inharmonious noises. He wondered how the old lady made herself so quiet. Was she really there? He gritted his teeth, knowing he only had one choice of making himself quieter. He sat down on the tidy lawn of a large house, and kicked off his unlaced boots to reveal a pair of already wet wool socks. With the sodden boots in one hand, he stood, shutting his eyes as the gelid water met his warm feet. He continued determinedly. He smiled. Instead of a sharp noise, his socked feet squished gently against the ground.

He watched her right hand swing slowly by her side. He let his eyes rest. When he looked at that hand, all he saw was two blue dots swinging in the air. He shook his head. There were no dots. Her hand resembled an old, gnarled branch, clinging helplessly to the tree. It would fall off someday, he thought carefully, and he would pick it up and keep it in his room. A nice pit of distorted flesh would look nice by the hearth. He nodded, and smiled. That hand was his when she was done with it. He held his breath and looked up. Rain poured into his eyes and ran down the cracks of his mouth. It rushed through every hair on his head, weighing his head down so much that he had to stop to catch his balance. He had never felt so happy, with all of his friends falling down upon his drenched body. He spread his arms, as if trying to catch them all. Each drop that landed on his forehead ran down his face, and over his neck and under his green shirt. Each drop lightly pinched his skin with their cold fingers. He shut his eyes and listened, bringing in the sounds of the rain pattering quickly on the ground. He took a deep breath, absorbing the smell of wet grass and asphalt. He opened his mouth, giving his parched lips and mouth the chance to hydrate themselves with fresh, cool cloud-water. His hands curled into tight fists, and he brought them in by his sides. Smoothly, he lowered his head, letting his eyes fall open.

The old lady was farther ahead of him than he had expected. His mouth opened, and he ran, his socks slipping on the wet ground. He slowed when he got within several yards of her. She did not notice the rain. Her pace did not change. He buttoned his coat once again and crossed his arms over his chest, letting his boots knock against his side. He was content, just walking in the woman's footsteps. He did not like to lead: he would rather follow. Looking down at her feet, he synchronised their paces. Step... Step... Step... Their feet hit the ground at the same time again and again like a machine. He was determined not be the one to break the steps. They got to the next corner, and the old lady stopped. The man's brow furrowed. She turned to the left and continued, but more slowly. She looked at the addresses carefully, as if to find one. They came to a small grey house where she turned, and went up the steps. Breathing hard, he darted towards the nearest car, whereas he ducked, and got out of sight. He shook his head slowly as she pulled a small key out of her handbag, and stuffed it into the rusty lock. The door opened and she entered, without looking back. The door lingered open a moment, and then slammed shut. He heard a sharp click, and the door was locked.

The man stepped out from behind the car, mouth open, dripping hair hanging over his face. His boots fell beside him, but he did not take notice. He looked down. The ground looked so far away. Suddenly, he felt very cold, as if the world had turned on him. His friends came down more harshly now, and each one hurt, as if each one was a harsh word telling him again and again never to set his mind on things. They didn't have to tell him. He knew. Distraught, he dropped to his knees, and placed his hands on the pavement. The wet wool of his socks clung to his feet, as heavy as sandbags. Everything seemed to weigh him down now, as if the old lady had held up all the troubles of the world on her scrawny shoulders. He knew she was gone, but the knowledge of it seemed to cling to the pit of his stomach like burs. The cold day then disappeared from the man, and, with his friends vanishing around him, the sun hit the earth.

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