The air conditioner croons above the chattering bus passengers. Cindy plunks down into an empty seat, one of three empty seats, before the line of waiting passengers bulldozes through the narrow passageway. She pulls her shoulders in, making herself as small as possible, as a backpack knocks her right shoulder. She schools her features so the curl of her lip and the glare of her eyes don’t show. She opens her drawstring bag and retrieves a book, a mystery.
Her phone bleeps, she checks her messages. We need to talk.
She doesn’t notice the man that stands right by her until—
“Hi. Excuse me.”
She looks up and blinks. The man towers over her, his head almost touching the top pole. The man stares intently at the girl next to her. The girl wears a tan hijab and a black coat.
“Can I use your phone to call my wife? I want to tell her to meet me at ESSO.”
The girl surrenders her phone. The man rapidly dials a number. Cindy busies herself with her own phone and finishes typing out a response. Her battery is a bit too low for her liking: the battery symbol flashes red at 15%.
“HEY! HEY GUYS!” She flinches. She resists the urge to look at the man, instead she focuses on her hand which rest on the head of the seat in front of her. His fingernails have a line of dirt at the nail bed. His hands have lines and sun spots — she guessed he must be in his 50s. “It’s me! I have the 40. I’ll meet you at the ESSO. I’ll be there in five.”
He hands the phone back to the girl and strides to the front of the bus. Cindy eyes his retreating figure. She takes the time to see his full figure. He’s tall, at least 5’11 — no, 6’2’ — with a red hat and a coat that reaches mid-calf. He clings to the handrails at the front, near the bus driver.
The girl returns to her book, flipping to the page marked by a Walmart receipt.
Twenty minutes passes and the girl beside Cindy looks out the window. The windows are hard to see from — cars and buildings look like grey shadows. It is impossible to make out any notable buildings or street names. She is too far back to see through the front.
The girl beside her wipes a layer of condensation with her sleeve. The girl can make out a bright orange Pizza Pizza sign before the girl’s head blocks the way. Throughout the ride, Cindy tries to catch a glimpse out the grimy window and whenever the back door opens.
The humming air conditioner drowns out the sound of the bus announcing the stops.
An hour passes before she recognizes the street marked by BMO and a McDonalds. Usually, the sight signaled she was 10 minutes away. By time she arrived to her destination, however, twenty minutes past.
The snow storm delayed her bus by two hours. She was late.