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The windows on this night bus are all very steamed up. Not those big ones at the front, only the others. I want to open my windows that little part – that window flap – at the top, but I don’t because it’s cold outside and I don’t want to upset anyone. I also don’t want to draw attention to myself. I’m not stupid enough to want people – 2:30am on a Friday night – to notice me.
I pull my coat up around me, and it reminds that I’m nearly naked underneath it. I can’t use my phone because the battery is low, and because I’ve drunk too much to risk the travel sickness anyway.
I cannot be sick now. Not on a night bus.
Someone has already been sick, somewhere. I can smell it. It’s not on me, the smell. How long do I have left? He won’t stop at every stop – he’ll only stop when he’s flagged down – so maybe only 20 minutes left. That’s not too bad.
I will have to stay awake. Who else is here? Downstairs, it’s loud. I’m upstairs. There’s a man at the front with a dog in the aisle, and no one dares yet to sit on the other front seats. The best seats, everyone agrees. Feels like you’re driving the bus, you can see everything. We are coming up to an area now where there are a few bars, the kind that have bouncers outside on the weekends. Maybe someone will come up who dares to climb over that dog.
I can hear a couple behind me, probably right at the back. Slurping at each other. If I can sober up completely, I will feel better tomorrow. She groans a little, and he shushes her.
How many hours ago was I deciding to leave David’s flat? Probably getting on for almost two hours. Didn’t leave right away, I needed to lie awake and stare at his bedroom for a while. He has no furniture beyond the bed. His dirty clothes are left in a pile by the door, and he hangs up clean clothes on the back of his door. A few suits on hangers. He does own an ironing board and iron, always open and ready in the corner of the room. He is very proud of his minimalism. To redress myself, I needed to sit on the side of his bed. I realised when I picked up my clothes that there was urine on them, presumably mine. The urine was cold by then, and the room dark enough that I couldn’t check exactly where it was on my clothes. But I still had my big coat, the coat he thinks is puffy and ugly, something a football manager would wear. Worn by someone afraid of the cold. I told him, I’m not afraid of the cold, I just don’t like the cold. Coldaphobic, he said. He made himself laugh. I wasn’t going to say again that I wasn’t afraid of the cold. What would be point of correcting him again?
Someone here is snoring, it’s getting louder. Might be the man with the dog. My clothes are wrapped up in my bag, on my lap. I don’t think they smell, but maybe they will tomorrow. I can’t run the washing machine right away tonight or the neighbours will complain – they tell me they hear everything.
A stop. Only a few more. Driver has definitely skipped a few but I can’t see outside to find out which. A man – I don’t look at him for long, but maybe he’s still a teenager – comes upstairs with food. Smells like something fried, but I can’t tell what. I don’t mind the smell. He is wearing a bright red bomber jacket. It’s hard to look away from. The man takes himself away to a part of the top deck where no one is sitting. He burps quietly and apologises to himself.
Tonight never had much promise; I’m not disappointed. I don’t enjoy conversations or sex with David. He always texts me on Wednesday and I see him on Fridays. For almost one year now. He tends to be angry about something he’s read in an online newspaper, and he’ll talk about it over dinner. He will have chosen a nice place to eat, and he’ll pay for it all. I’m not bothered by this – he earns many times what I do. I’ve never drunk so much that I’ve wet myself though. I can’t remember, now that I think about it, leaving the restaurant or getting to his room. I usually try not laugh at the quietness as we need to slip off our shoes without his landlady noticing. He has a landlady who rents him a room, and he is discouraged from having overnight guests. It’s like the 1950s, it’s ridiculous. He doesn’t want housemates, he says. Too distracting. I’m the perfect girlfriend for him, he doesn’t need to say it. I don’t particularly like him.
I can’t remember leaving the house. My chest contracts for a moment: yes, I am wearing my shoes. That would be too much. I couldn’t walk from the bus-stop barefoot. I wouldn’t want anyone on the bus to see me barefoot. I must straighten up and not fall asleep.
Here is the stop, this one, the one with even more bars and pubs. There is a crowd of men, I can see the shape of them trying to get on. They are wearing suits – they’ve come from work; they’ve been out for hours. They are loud and cheer when the bus doors open to them. Maybe other buses didn’t let them on. They are heavy-footed on the stairs, maybe there are eight of them. I don’t know where they’ll sit, everyone is so spread apart to avoid each other. The most space is around me. Maybe I do smell, I can’t tell. They sit around me, on the seats in front, behind, over the aisle, and then one of them takes the seat beside me. He turns his back to me, stretching his legs out over the aisle. Cigarettes and beer.
If David had noticed me leaving, he would’ve ordered me a taxi. He will like that I left on my own though, without waking him. He will respect my need for independence. He likes saying things like that. He respects my independence, my autonomy, my intellect. I never question his opinions when he starts talking about something I’m not interested in – I don’t want to prolong it.
The men are arguing. They all agree that there were no good-looking girls out tonight. One of them whispers to another and they look at me. Says something about mine being a face that got fucked tonight. They don’t mean for me to hear them, I don’t think, but they aren’t able to be quiet. The joke spreads among the group. Look at her hair, one says. That hair has had some hands through it tonight. Her mouth has had a rough time. Or a good time, says another.
I have resolved to stop seeing David. That happened during the time spent looking around his bedroom. I don’t hate him. But I don’t understand him. The restaurants are good, I like being out late on Friday nights and not paying for anything. The sex isn’t horrible, I don’t endure it. I am becoming bored by it. He has the same moves – wants the same thing, exactly the same thing – every time. I do look like it, like what the men are saying about me. There have been enough times for me to know my lips are swollen and my hair is tangled. David likes to bunch it up into a ponytail and hang onto it. I used to like seeing that the next morning, proof of the Friday night before.
Someone rings the bell, and that box thing lights up with the name of the next stop. Still a few more to go. Every stop seems to be letting people get off, the driver isn’t skipping them anymore. The man at the front with the dog leaves, and the couple from the back rush out just in time before the doors close. The big man, the one next to me, has turned around now. He is going to start talking to me, any moment now. He opens his mouth and I say, Excuse me. I slur more than I hoped I would. I’m tired, and my mouth hurts a little. The man doesn’t move his legs, only his arms and in a splay over his lap. I want to sit at the front of the bus. I want to see where I am going through those big windows that don’t steam up. I stand up and cross over the big man. His friends are watching quietly. His hand slips up my coat when I pass over him, and he can’t believe it. He tells all the bus what he can feel, and his other hand reaches up to stop me from moving. I say, I’m going to be sick, and he takes his hands away. He passes around his hands for his friends to smell. The boy with the fried food looks at me as I head down the stairs, something like a type of concern. I hope he will be okay alone on this bus with them. He straightens himself up and uses his arm to wipe away some steam from the window, his red sleeve blackening from it, and pretends to be looking at something outside. I have a short walk because I got off the bus too early, but it’s not raining so the walk will be fine.