Today wasn’t bad as far as her days went. But she was on a sliding scale of sanity. She hadn’t spoken to her mother today. She also hadn’t hated her mother today. Alisha sat at the bus stop – the one where the bus almost never stopped. The weather was almost perfect – a hesitant fall day. All the city girls were donning their latest purchases – toffee-colored boots, chunky cable-knit sweaters, in tone of pumpkin and shades of cocoa. She always thought it was funny how people rushed to wear new clothes at even the premature hint of the next season. Three months later they were fed up of these same things. People get fed up so easily.
Alisha was hungry, but not sure for what, which made her irritable. She stared at the homeless man sitting on the other side of the bench. He looked like a skinny Santa Claus, and had perched on his knees a black plastic platter with a cheap doily and a grocery store birthday cake sitting atop. It was dark chocolate on the inside – the cake looked crumbly and dry and on top of the glazed white frosting were purple and green flowers. He was grinning with delight and Alisha wondered what the original occasion had been. Did this cake ever carry any sentiment with it or was it a formality for someone. She often wondered things like this. Which decidedly got her nowhere.
A young couple waited standing as well. They looked to be in their late teens. The girl was tall and willowy in dark, skinny jeans and a coconut-colored sweater. The boy was wide-eyed and blushing. They were kissing and touching in the gentlest of ways – no matter what they did, some part of them was touching. Alisha stayed fixated on them and she wasn’t bothered. Today wasn’t a bad day.
Her mind drifted to touch and she thought about her own clothes – tailored black pants, a black v-neck sweater, and black ballet flats with a hole in the right toe. She was careless in her dress because she was cluttered in her mind, but she was protected in her clothing. She was safe. I am safe, she said as her fingers played with the white plastic button in her coat pocket. She flipped it over a dozen times – her index finger and thumb acting in concert. Why did I buy a white coat? Things get dirty so easily. They sometimes look dirty even when they aren’t.
She thought of a story her grandmother told her about a woman who was about to be molested by a gang of men and as they attempted to pull her clothes off, the fabric never ended. The fabric never ended. It went on and on until the men became frustrated. She fantasized about this tale throughout her day. Everyday. She was safe.
Today wasn’t a bad day so she dared to think maybe she would savor it. She could turn it around in her mouth and touch it with the tip of her tongue and tease her senses like she is about to swallow, and then hold it there for just a little longer. Just to taste it before it disappears. Again.
The homeless man motioned his fork in her direction as if to offer her some of his ceremony-less cake. She shook her head and smiled politely. The bus was approaching and about to stop. Today wasn’t a bad day.