My seat has a tear in its midnight blue cover
Torn perfectly at the last vowel
I read, ‘Ventur__’
I read this as a sign
My friends say I read too much
They don’t know that I read too much into everything.
Through the damp bus window
I watch the night crawl, trot and speed by
Stirring in me nostalgia for a life I don’t lead.
I recall a comment from my business tutorial
“Pretty handwriting”, announces the long-haired boy sitting opposite me.
Coppery sunlight floods our fifth-floor classroom. He is Jesus.
We’ve never exchanged a word that isn’t related to business
I grudge his remark, then shrug it off like the crumbs of an eraser.
What use is good handwriting when I can’t comprehend my own mind?
An ear-piercing horn
The bus lurches to a halt
And so does my reverie
Because my distended abdomen reminds me of my urgent and painful need to pee.
The woman slouched in the seat next to mine adjusts her scarf
And I wiggle a bit more, crossing and uncrossing my legs
Contorting my body into a tightly-wrung towel.
We’re journeying across the length of the urban sprawl
2 hours; there’s a limit to enjoying a dying pink sun over the river bridge.
What if public transport was equipped with toilets?
I make a mental note to pitch this idea in my next business class.
I don’t want to complain. I like my commute.
I like strutting purposefully towards the tastefully-decorated home
Where I tutor a smart teenager.
I politely decline tea and Greek biscuits, but pocket two on my way home.
I like the orange and white bougainvillea spilling out of people’s backyards.
I like doing my homework at the bus stop, squinting occasionally to watch the bus in the distance.
I like it all
Yet, there are days when, if asked whether I want to be rich or clever,
I would choose to have wings.
Calculations: at the current speed, I will reach home only by 21:45
A case study assignment for tomorrow. I know Jesus will help.
Logistically it would be easier if I camped overnight at university instead of going home tonight
Although an ‘easy life’ does not quite have a nice ring to it.
My nostrils detect citrusy hand sanitiser, spicy Thai curry
And the most pungent of all, my own desperation.
Trapped inside a metal contraption of a bus,
I jump over the seat and hit the hand rail.
My bladder is afraid and unafraid
My face purple and my ego bruised,
I cry to the bus driver to let me off in heavy traffic.
Warm bodies in heated cars on North Road that night will tell of a drugged madwoman running up the street in sleety rain. A story for the dinner table.
the lady at a kebab shop murmurs sheepishly.
“Use portable. Go left.”
Soaked pants, and I feel a familiar warmth even as I stand.
Among the coins and post-it-notes in my pocket, I finger some almonds.
I don’t scrunch up my nose, my senses temporarily numbed as I relieve myself
in the commodious portable.
Oceanic relief and a river of tears.
I thank everyone I know, bless those I don’t, and wash my hands in the cracked grey sink.
I walk back to the kebab shop and the auburn-haired lady smiles
“Last customer, happy happy. Eat free.”
We could eat together and chat for hours, but I wear a watch
And don’t live in a novel.
Oh. “Teşekkür teyze”, thank you aunty.
It’s time to wait for the right time
20 minutes for the next bus
I eat two almonds, then burp
“Excuse me” at absent humans. Nuttier than an almond.
I close my eyes and wait.
©Devika Pandit 2020