The Commute

Written By Julia Sokol
I get on the bus.
Quick assessment.
Good seats taken, pretty full.
Douches sitting in aisle seats, with no one in the window seat.
Guilt washes over me– maybe they have a reason!
Don’t be so judgey, Julia.
I spot an aisle seat.
It is next to a larger man. He seems comfortably spread out.
I sit down next to him.
He doesn’t even attempt to make himself smaller to give me ample room.
His legs are spread. Intruding my space.
I’m at once hating him and wondering why he hates me.
I look around, conspicuously.
There’s still other empty seats left.
Guilt washes over me…. he hates me because I took a seat by him when I could have taken a different one,
since his body language clearly states that he doesn’t want a bus partner.
But see, I was trying to be an equal opportunity bus partner.
People probably never take the seat by him if they have a choice, because he’s overweight.
I wanted to make him happy. I really did.
But he hates me.
And now I’m torn. And I kind of hate him too.
But now my mind wanders to those articles I read about how women need to stop making themselves “smaller”.
How we are always making room for men.
They take up all this room on the subway and we narrowly squish between them.
Now I’m feeling angry.
I’m feeling like a feminist.
I’m angry with this man next to me.
Just because he is overweight and I’m a thin girl,
that doesn’t mean he should be SO comfortably spread out,
very clearly in my space.
He could easily move his legs.
For a moment, I consider speaking out.
I’m about to say something to him.
But the bus is quiet.
He is sleeping.
The reading light is on above him.
Why is his reading light on if his eyes are closed?
I begin to pity him.
He doesn’t ride the bus often?
He is not perceptive and doesn’t notice he’s completely lit up on an otherwise pitch black bus?
I somehow feel bad for him now.
What other embarrassing things does he do in life without realizing?
Some time passes…
I casually inspect other people sitting around me.
A man nearby, a tall man, has his knees/legs out in the aisle so as to make MORE room for his bus partner.
The flame of feminism is fanned once again.
I make my move.
I spread my knees out, as if I am adjusting to be more comfortable and don’t even notice my overweight bus partner next to me.
My adjustment is minimal.
My leg is now touching his and my upper arm rests against his, side-by-side.
I notice a stir from him.
No movement of his body, but perhaps a sleepy glance.
Maybe he’s just noticing me for the first time?
Maybe he didn’t realize I was near him?
Maybe he doesn’t hate me?
And maybe he’s not such an asshole!
His light is still on.
His position has not changed but I feel a general air of alertness from him.
Maybe this is the first human contact he has had in a long time.
He seems to drift back to sleep.
Light still on.
I imagine him pleasantly sleeping, comforted by my presence and this physical contact.
He’s missing his ex-wife.
He appreciates my presence.
My nonjudgmental, comforting touch.
But why is he not creeped out?
I wasn’t touching him before, when the ride began. I clearly “made myself small”.
Now, I am brushing against him.
What if he takes this as a sign? An invitation, even?
I imagine him suddenly waking from sleep and leaping out to kiss me, one hand grabbing my breast.
Stop the paranoia, I think.
Just let him rest, with your gentle touch comforting him.
I notice it’s my stop.
“I’m sorry, but I must leave you now”, I think.
I try to naturally perk up, like I just noticed my stop is next.
As I perk up, I move my body away from his and we lose contact.
He seems to still be dozing.
I look out of the window to make sure I know where I am but also to catch a glance of him.
Until now, I haven’t actually seen the face of the man with whom I’ve shared this journey.
Here we are. It’s my stop.
I stand up and as I stand, I swear he glances at me.
I know it, this is the moment he’s finally seeing me for the first time.
I imagine him pleasantly surprised that this is the girl with whom he shared this journey.
I walk off the bus and realize,
I have to write this down.
I’m a weirdo.

Photography By AphoticSketch
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3 comments on “The Commute

  1. Lesley Slade

    Total expansion of the mind when all you wanted to do was sit comfortably on a crowded bus. Very eloquent and aptly put.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on sweaterk and commented:

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Very good! I like it a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

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