The limitations of the world do not affect me as I watch everyone else feel the opposite. A woman runs slower than she wishes because of the stroller she pushes before her, partly because of the wind so unusual for spring, but also because of the two babies who undoubtedly have different last names than the teenager rolling them sluggishly; a man slumps with a cane he drags along carelessly, feeling the creaks of his bones as the breeze pass through them. I sit, and let the wind go through me as I make no recognition of its prevalence.
I walk slowly, and whistles from men whose views are obstructed by the sun, natural blindness, or a concrete slab of a varying size standing somewhere in between desire and the object thereof are directed at every movement surrounding. In front of me is Adan, and in front of me is the adhesive binding me to a past of numbers I do not want, but I know I must become a part of one day. (My cousin did when she was sixteen. She was always a little bigger than other girls, but had the face of a doll not yet soiled by the neglect of maturity. The only person to appreciate dollface so quickly became the father of a son to share his name. Naturally, the boy, now the father, could not handle another person who answered to the same word he did - it was a pretty unique name - so left, leaving his kid to wonder why and where he got a name everyone teases and twists and taunts. Poor, sweet, young Gaylord. His birth could not have been in vain, though; later that year, statisticians determined the trend of young Hispanic women getting pregnant was no longer declining, and in certain communities, even increasing. Through gentrification, at least we can keep one thing ours!)
Adan stops at a dirty corner right in front of Beto’s Taco House, and I wonder if when Roberto or Gilberto or Alberto bought his Mexican food restaurant to rival the other tens already built on the block, he would know that a fourteen year old kid growing a beard and smelling like a man just as his adolescence was coming to an end would buy a can of spray paint with just the hair on his chin and the filled cracks in his voice, spray an unspeakable body part and some words seen by God (though Beto better hope not) on the side of the building, and call it art and an expression of anger which, after all, is better than joining a gang.
“What are you thinking of?” Adan asks. “You don’t seem to be absorbing what I say very much.”
“Nothing,” I mumble.
“Cut that s*** out. I hate it when people mumble. I hate it even more when you do it. You're like the Goddamn meek that Jesus said will inherit the Earth or something. Speak louder, dammit, I can’t even hear you,” he tells me.
I can now establish that Adan is a Christian, theologian, and a skilled public speaker, although God did not damn the meek.
He looks at me, smiles, and inhales all of the dirty air and spray paint fumes that should have dried by now through his mouth, just before asking, “Are you ready?”
“…the bus? That’s why we’re here. If I wanted tacos, I would have stopped for them at one of the four taquerias we’ve already passed, or maybe the truck hanging outside of the flea market. Again, I say: are you ready? It’s supposed to come pretty damn soon. Hopefully it will hurry its fat ass up with whatever sixty-pluses are getting their squishy asses settled in their front chairs.”
Just as he talks about geriatrics, a bus full of so few appears behind him, clouding my vision of the man dragging his cane and the woman dragging her children.
I walk up the steps, careful not to touch any rails as Adan pays for each of us with the change he found after taking a few looks in his backyard and taking some digs with a rusty shovel. He leads me to two seats far in the back, hidden from everyone, but keeping the same people from whom I hide in my vision.
“This,” he says, “this is the good business,” and he slides his arm across my shoulders as his long, clammy fingers tap the negative space between me and the window in anticipation for whatever he plans to do.
I let his silence be the song playing in my ears as I absorb everyone, everything around me - the two squishy old folks at the front; a group of teenage boys sniggering as they pretend to be able to see down the shirt of the pregnant woman reaching down to her purse in front of them; a middle-aged couple who refuse to stare at each other as the man gazes out the window and the woman cranes her neck to see out of the other window, although her husband has the easier view, and not to mention, a much better one. Adan’s fingers are tapping on the plastic of the seat too quickly, too loudly, and I cannot concentrate on the world outside of us, only him and his hurried, nervous tapping.
“Do you have to take a dump or something?” I ask.
“Nope.” He pops the “p” and smiles with all of his teeth for the first time.
The bus lurches forward at the fading of a yellow light no one, not even the driver seems to notice, and Adan’s arm leaves the crack of his wrist against the back of my head.
“S***, I’m sorry,” he apologizes, and places his hand on my knee, solidifying his sorrow with action.
We both stare at his hand until it moves out of my sight, in the direction of the fabric folds in my skirt that sitting in the damp plastic of the bus has created. His hand moves farther up, and farther up and up and up until it stops at one point, where my leg ends at an apex below my stomach.
“Adan,” I say, as he looks up with his brows furrowed and his lips parted open. His other hand is gripping the plastic on the edge of his seat so furiously that his knuckles turn white. The operative hand stays where it is, though its growing sweat is beginning to stick to my thigh.
“Never mind,” I say quietly, and cover my shame with the jacket my mother said would protect from cold weather, and I wonder how many plastic rosary beads she wasted on this. All I do is stare at the people in the bus, and I pray to God internally that no one sees the sin in which I am indulging. The two old women laugh about something they saw in the morning, and the teenage boys are pinching and punching and slapping each other again as they see a line travel down the pregnant woman’s chest once more. The husband continues to stare out of his window, imagining the otherworldly things known to him and unknown that lie beyond the cool glass of the shaded window, but the wife watches us as sorrow seeps from her eyes, manifesting itself in little streams of tears, but only one or two per minute.
Once Adan finishes, he wipes his fingers on the side of the plastic seat that had previously fostered his nervous, anxious tapping, and he doesn’t look at me at all, just out the window and the tagging on the side of every Taquiera Jalisco, one for every street. The group of younger boys are still laughing, the old women still recall what they still can, and the wife is still crying as I wonder about what otherworldly things I may see, and what otherworldly things I may have no choice but to imagine, as these things continue.
The bus makes the first stop where I am actually deciding to pay attention, and everyone removes themselves from the air conditioning of the bus, into the heat of the sun and the dust of the soil, while we remain. Adan finally looks at me and smiles gingerly, with none of his teeth showing, and I smile back, meeting his caution, meeting his enthusiasm.
“You good?” he asks. He speaks slower than he usually does, and his hand is creeping down the small of my back, as if he may be burdened with comforting me sometime coming.
“Yeah,” I tell the empty space before me. He knows it’s directed towards him, anyway.
“I like you a whole f***in’ lot, you know,” he laughs, and when he does, his eyes crinkle and his nostrils widen, like an old man who can’t control where and when he feels some disingenuous joy or giggle or smile.
I say nothing, and pay attention to the static becoming louder as the driver takes the silence as the opportunity to put on the radio, although we’re too far out of the city to get good reception, unless it’s on AM radio.
The driver shouts to us, “Where are y’all headed?”
I wait for Adan to answer, but the only sound from him is the rustling of his hands through his hair as he wonders the same question.
“I’m not sure,” he says. “The next stop, I guess, if that’s not a problem.”