I got off the train at Bedford. I walked up out of the station and around the corner to wait for the bus. I lit a cigarette and stared down the street, waiting.
I was followed out of the station by a white girl carrying a large black suitcase. I didn't take much notice of her. She walked up to about four feet from me at the bus stop, set her suitcase down, and sat on it. She had sort of a horsey face and a big nose. I stared down the street, trying hard to see an approaching bus in the distance. There was no bus. I stared a while longer, then she spoke.
—I'm exhausted! she said. This was in response to a young black man's question, which I didn't know was directed at her until she answered.
—You leaving already? he yelled from across the street.
—I don't know how much more I can take.
Her voice was deep, and was colored by some accent I couldn't place. It might have been German or Austrian, but I couldn't be sure. I liked that voice. I looked at her face again. It wasn't so bad. I sometimes have a thing for noses. Her features were rough, and I wouldn't have said she was pretty, but she was compelling. I realized suddenly that she was staring back at me. I felt trapped and a little rude. My cigarette was just about done, so I turned away to flick it into the street. It flipped end over end, landing about eight or nine feet away. (I saw someone do that in a movie once, and even though I fear it comes off affected, I like the way it looks, especially in the dark.)
I went back to looking for the bus. Every time I dropped my eyes back to her, she was looking at me. I was starting to like that face. She finally looked down to unzip a pocket on the side of her suitcase. She took out a small metal box, and after zipping the suitcase closed, opened it, took out a pack of rolling papers, and started to put together a cigarette.
—Shit, I thought. —She's a German hippy. But I started thinking about her voice, and it didn't bother me. I was looking at her face again when she spoke to me.
—Do you have a light for me?
—Right here. I opened my bag, pulling out my lighter. —You're going to have to be quick about it, though, I cautioned. While I'd been looking at her, the bus had finally shown up five or six blocks down the street.
—It worked, she said, and smiled. I liked her smile.
—I've never tried it with the bus before.
—It works for everything that never comes, she replied. I smiled at her.
She'd righted her suitcase by the time the bus pulled up. We moved to get on, her in front of me. I took a place standing near the driver so I could look out the front window, and she got a seat twoard the back.
She got off one stop before mine.