It's a rare thing. To see an attractive woman. At least one that's less than a hundred feet away or not on the pages of some glossy magazine.. It's a rare thing. You see I work at the phone company and most everyone is old, like me.. Victims of a lifetime spent sitting behind a desk; the only exercise being a waddle to the street to suck down a couple smokes and grab another cup of bitter Starbuck's foglifter.. To say that beauty is at a premium is an understatement..Aesthetics have no purchase at the phone company. My life is pretty gray.. The same day repeated over and over like a bad dream you just can't shake...A condition unique to the modern world, I think.. or perhaps slavery. I wake in the damp chill before dawn. Dress. Wait in line with scores of other urban automatons... worker drones for the most part, with a few bums and schizophrenics thrown in to convince us that things could be worse.. to cram into a bus that takes us to jobs we hate... That hatred stamped in the flattened, vacant affect of the commuters as clearly as if it were chiseled there. Regular and perpetual. Wash, rinse, repeat in reverse.
Today was no different.. Gray faces radiating anxiety.. A day passed in a blur of numbers, a sea of paper, caffeine rush and feigned civility.. By quitting time I was exhausted and ready to drop into a twilight sleep for the ride back to the suburbs. Pulling my cap down over my eyes and wedging myself into a back corner of the bus I began to melt into the steady thrum of the motors.. Then something very unusual happened. A few stops into the trip something disturbed me.. Not the babbling of the mentally ill arguing with a tormentor only they can see.. not gangbangers rapping out loud with a voice on their iPod.. Those are everyday and don't even register anymore.. This was subtle.. A disturbance to my reality. Something out of balance. Peeking out from under my cap nothing looked immediately amiss.. The same people in the same places making the same noises.. Then I saw her..
She came sauntering up the narrow aisle in slow motion as if the world had been rendered a Hollywood movie and she was Scarlett Johanssen making her debut.. I say 'sauntered' because it wasn't the walk, or rather the shuffle, of the dead that I'm used to.. She walked with purpose and a .. je ne sais quoi.. savoir vivre..An angel.. perhaps twenty.. Golden blond with over-sized blue eyes.. thin but curvaceous and feminine..Nordic.. maybe Russian..Dressed stylishly in the proverbial little black dress that made the best of her assets. She came to within a few feet of me.. I thought for one fleeting moment that she was going speak but at the last second she turned and took a seat a couple rows over... crossing her legs properly.
Not wanting to alarm her or draw attention to myself I studied her through half closed lids from the shade of my bill and the anonymity of my corner.. As my eyes surveyed her smooth lines I felt something for the first time in a very long time.. not lust.. nothing so base.. It was the feeling of awe.. of the presence of beauty.. a feeling there's no word for.. the long graceful neck...Full lips.. the creamy white skin, unblemished.. Toenails blood red... It was a hunger.. and with it came a sense of bitterness, sadness and loneliness.. and an excruciating sensation of invisibility as the thought seeped into my mind that the three feet or so that separated us might as well be a million miles.. It was the feeling of a ghost hovering around the living, drawn like a moth to a flame, to something beyond its reach.. Something lost and never found.
As this thought overwhelmed me the bus stopped abruptly and flung its mechanical doors wide.. without a word the woman gathered her things, rose and ran out to be swallowed by the crowds..
Bitching loudly to no one in particular about her latest employer as she does everyday, the mannish dyke construction worker, trailing a cloud of chalk dust, shambled on board and into the newly vacated seat.. pulled her hardhat low over her eyes.. and hunching her shoulders, settled in for a nap..
The balance had returned.