Here’s the second installment of stories written on a crowded-ass bus on my way to work. (Which is still quieter than my office, now that all of San Francisco is under construction.) I hope you enjoy it. Shit, listen to it on your way to work, then it’ll be partially interactive.
Stories in Motion
Once Spittin’ Twice Shy
On they surged, strangers for today. That morning had a bite that took more than it gave; bearing into the lips and cheeks, naked foreheads, rare and all the more sad. Even an occasional ankle rode to the wind, god help them. The chimes of progress created a heartbeat, mechanic as it may be, skirting atop the swells it still gave a pulse to the workweek.
Harley found it reassuring to see any recognizable face. Because it helped him recognize that he had woken up today in the same world that he remembered from yesterday. He still got out his notebook, glanced at yesterday’s scrawlings (as imbalanced as they may be), and could almost map out the currents in the bay. He focused on a sentence that painted his glimpse of clarity within its mumbling paragraph, probably written in the trough between waves: Her arms are crossed, it read. A sand-colored jacket covering her red sweater. Anger jousting with boredom. He could remember her now, from yesterday, mostly because he could remember yesterday remembering her from three days before that. She had choked on her bagel that day of (1,2,3…) 4 days ago, and spat it onto an old lady’s shoulder. The old lady hadn’t noticed and Harley couldn’t focus on anything after that, other than the half-chewed bread, clothed in saliva and cream cheese, perched on the woman’s shoulder like a parrot, watching the ocean’s roadway.
That memory came narrated with a splash now, this morning, as the ocean rapped against Harley’s window. it made him think of a secret lover at night time and it startled him (as both secrets and lovers were wont), as he lifted his eyes in response. They slid directly into hers, the bagel-spitter from last week acting as his notebook’s muse from moments ago. Harley almost yelped. He felt like she had stepped from the page, a zombie crawling from his own disheveled letters. Especially the way she stared. He wondered if he was really here now, on this ferry, or if his mind was on the run, as it liked to, against his pillow’s treadmill. But then she looked away and he knew he’d made her uncomfortable. Which was another familiar feeling. He looked back down at his notebook and started to write: that he was thankful that she didn’t have a bagel, as the bay was chatty today and he was beneath her crosshairs. He tried to write that but the waters had other plans and dictated to his hand a language he scarcely recognized.
He stared at the scribbles as though they created some key, but his attention was arrested. The bagel-spitter was outside his window, on the deck, the waters lashing against her. He looked where she’d been sitting and saw a single sheet of cardboard, the strip for which one was to hold hot drinks, and there was something written on it. He leaned forward just as a cry flashed outside. People rushed to the rail out there and leaned over, trying to keep an eye on what they were now passing. The girl was gone. Harley took the coffee holder and read what she had written before her hasty departure: Stop drawing me. He felt his face burn in embarrassment and only hoped that if this was a dream, he would wake up soon. But the waves kept coming.
Before long they found their dock and Harley stepped off the ferry. Another day another dollar. Another pile of scattered selves he aimed to collect and hopefully reassemble to create something less gut-wrenching. He put on his name tag, that read generically Psychiatrist, as he walked toward the guidance ward on Alcatraz for the belligerently insane. Another day.