Laurel Miram

At the Bus Stop, After

Bus Stop by Andrew Stevovich

I don’t need to look to know. Every car has its sound; keep it long enough, you learn its hum, its aches. I bought that Subaru in a snowstorm on New Year’s Day—of course I know it’s her.

I don’t want to look, but I don’t want to be a child, either.

We swore this: we would be polite, gracious. Human.

If she gets out of the car, I’ll say hello.

Will we say anything more? Should we? There were so many conditions in those papers—I can’t remember what I agreed to and which rounds I lost—I don’t think I’m ready to navigate all this yet.

I wish I hadn’t come so early. Truth is I was afraid of being late. God knows what she’d do. She isn’t a vindictive person—I believe that—just paranoid and impulsive. Compulsive. Especially with Aiden. With everything, really. Aiden’ll be grown and gone and she’ll still find something to obsess over. Eventually she’ll dive off the rails again and no one will be there to stop it.

She’s getting out. Shit.

She’s not looking over here. She must have seen me. Why did she park over there, anyway? It’s stupid for us to wait on opposite sides of the street. How’s he going to know which one of us to go to?

She said she’d remind him it’s my night, explain the changes. Prepare him. Except now she’s here, fucking everything up and jamming between and making an issue like she always does. Never trusts me to manage anything on my own.

She’s got her face in her phone, now. Guess I’ll go back to mine. Guess we won’t be speaking.

Fucking bizarre.

She looks good. I know those jeans—they’re my favorites. I wonder what’s under the coat. Probably skipped the bra. Maybe the shirt, too.

Like that day in the middle of Nebraska. It was this coat, the red one. She dragged the zipper so slow I didn’t wait for it to split. She got me blind with need. Can’t believe we did those things with Aiden sleeping in the back seat.

It’s probably not true she’ll end up alone. Some poor dolt will step in and think he loves her until she shows him he can’t. But that takes years.

Henry, maybe. He’d jump to have her if she’d let him. Leave Cindy alone with all those kids. Fucking loser.

Walt would, too. He wouldn’t stay, though. Hit, then run, like always.

Will…that’s a thought. He’d be good to her as long as he could stand her. He might make her happy. Maybe that’s what she needs—one of those “lemonade from lemons” types. But he wouldn’t last. None of them would. None as long as me.

I hate this tie; it’s like a freaking scarf around my collar. Who buys a fucking knit tie? What time is it, anyway? 3:34. I thought it was supposed to get here at 3:30—did I miss it? I’m cold now from all the sweat. Even with the jacket.

I should go over there. We were together fourteen years—we ought to be able to have a conversation on the sidewalk. Except I don’t know how to say hello anymore. How do you greet someone when you’ve burnt past all that? What would we say to each other, anyway? I’m sorry, it was just as much me as you—I forgot how to find us, how to look for you? Would we mention there were days we made that are tearing now, driving me back before this fifth minute overdue, this street as wide as flurried papers from a lawyer’s sleeve, this night I take us both away from you? Would I say my God, what did I do? Would I say how long I take to sleep, to shave, to eat, how I still haven’t turned around in bed, and how I don’t want to leave until you give me one look, so I can know for sure it’s you?


About the writer:
Laurel Miram is an American short prose writer and poet. Her prizewinning short fiction is featured in So to Speak Journal‘s 2019 contest issue. She enjoys art, history, music, film, and is exceptionally fond of wit.

Image: Bus Stop by Andrew Stevovich. Oil on linen. 24 x 24 inches. 2001. By free license.



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