Feeling that it was time once again to introduce color to my working wardrobe, I wore a red velvet dress with thin straps to work that day. It had a pattern of flowers and stems on the front, done in glue and glitter, that left a sparkling trail behind me wherever I walked and on whatever I touched. I liked the intense saturation it had in the sunlight, though while inside, the effect was slightly muted, for I had to don a white collared shirt over it. We are not permitted bare legs, and we are not to bare our shoulders.
As I left the building that night and headed to the bus stop, I removed the white shirt and held it in my arms. Other than attempting to move upwind of a smoker, I do not recall paying much heed to the people around me, for I had just survived a full day of retail, and was in no mood to acknowledge the rest of the folks who inhabit this world (or shop where I work). Once I stepped on to the bus, however, I did hope to see and observe two particular individuals, regular passengers of this particular number, that have become of interest to me. I was seeking the titanic Blob Lady, an overweight woman who wordlessly insists on sitting sideways and taking up two seats, even when the bus is full or overcrowded. One for her voluminous rear end, I can understand, but one for her left knee alone? Does she ever recognize the fact that another butt could be and should be deservingly seated next to her? I must study her, and see if ever her left knee gives the space to wobbly old ladies! My other subject of choice was a Young Man with a semi-mohawk styled haircut and with a rather punk lean to his style, who often read while riding. What did he read? I suspected poetry.
If I didn't see either of these two individuals for they had not boarded this particular bus, then I didn't want to speak to or watch anyone. I hoped to stare out the window blankly, as so many do, letting my mind wander away from the day's dull events. So when I found that neither was aboard, I planned on zoning.
But you know me, I hate to be rude.
And so it was that someone sat right down beside me, though many other seats were empty. He sat close too, most people try to keep an inch or two between bodies, even if it means leaning out into the aisle slightly. When I felt chilled from the air conditioning and tried to put my shirt on in the cramped space, he insisted on helping me with it, though most folks would have simply leaned back to give me more room to move my arms around in, and that is what my Midwestern soul and stand-offish personality would've preferred.
But I had to acknowledge him after that. It would've been rude to just ignore him, though I did certainly try once he started talking and I understood that despite the language barrier, he was trying to hit on me. I didn't want to deal with this at all. All I wanted to do was gaze out the window and let the minutes flow by, but instead, I was trapped between this Mexican man and the plexiglas pane. After I smiled, I turned back to the window, and he began to speak in a mixture of Spanish, translations, and English. He said that he liked "my color," pointing to my red dress and bag. "Yes," I said, "I like red too."
I pulled out the book I had on me, though I had finished it that afternoon and had, after retail, already powered off the brain cells necessary to understand it fully. I tried to give him the cold shoulder. I really tried. And he really tried to get my attention. After seeing that pointing at the chapter titles would not get much of a response, and that translating "beautiful" for me really didn't seem to do much either, he pulled a book out of his bookbag. Looking out of the corner of my eye, I could see that it was an English textbook, and he was clearly searching for a particular word or term. I wondered if we would sit in silence like this, but he soon found what he was looking for.
He pointed out "to look for," and I said I didn't understand, and tried to turn back to my book. He pointed at the word again, and clarified his intent: he was looking for a lady. I knew it. I knew it. I told him no, I was not interested, and he flipped the pages to a map, pointing out where in Mexico he was from. I laughed awkwardly and pointed to the Pennsylvania area, then again attempted to devote my attentions to my thick tome, hoping to politely discourage him. But "not interested" and a rather frigid reception did not seem to hinder or slow him in his efforts. Having caught my attention in even the slightest bit, he said that he had just immigrated, and he showed me his hands, which were reddened and chapped. He was a dishwasher, he explained, with little bitterness.
I have always had trouble interpreting accents other than the drawl so prevalent in the South, so he had to repeat everything multiple times before I paid attention and then, before I understood what he was saying. But when he said "Miguel" and pointed to himself, I knew immediately that he was introducing himself. He asked me what my name was, first in Spanish, and then in heavily accented English. I thought about what people online tell me to do in these situations, things like, "claim that you are a transgendered 12 year old," and "say you've got thirteen different STDs." I somehow didn't think that either of these would work.
"Maria," I stuttered, saying the first name that came to mind. "Maria," he repeated, though he probably saw through that one. When he asked where I lived, the next lie came more naturally. I said the name of a neighborhood the bus passed through, but one that is around three miles from my true home. He seemed thrilled, for he lived in that one too.
Surely, if he lived where he said he did, he would've gotten off the bus by now. I began to wonder if, given his persistence, he was going to get off the bus when I did. It would be terrible if that were so! Not only did I want to prevent the exposure of my second and greatest lie, but I just didn't want him to know where I lived. Ever. The neighborhood that I had named in the Second Lie was coming to an end, so I knew I had to make a decision quickly, within the next few stops. I worked up my resolve and got off the bus down the street from a grocery store. He did not follow me, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I laughed, then, feeling that although I had found it all very stressful, it was actually an amusing experience, one worth retelling.
I began to walk, thinking that I should look like I was going somewhere, and also let that bus go out of sight before I waited for another to come along. It occurred to me that I didn't have anything for dinner, and since the grocery store was so near, it seemed like a good idea to stop in and grab something, though not a lot, since I was not attired for carrying loads home. The velvet seemed deeper in the late afternoon sun.
Once in the store, I passed by the pop and chips, and as I looked up while turning the corner, there stood determined Miguel.
There was a jolt in my step as I realized what was happening. I was horrified, though I think it came across as surprise. This was karma. He grinned from ear to ear and tried to greet me with a kiss on the cheek, and though I ducked, I was not quick enough, for he landed one on the top of my head. This had to be karma! Startled beyond belief and plans for a good dinner completely gone from mind, I grabbed the thing nearest at hand (a box of Poptarts), and made for the registers. He put his arm around my shoulders and kissed me on the head again, and I wriggled away and tried not to look like I was running away, even though I was. Oh, was this ever karma! He asked me something, though his accent and my befuddlement made it difficult to interpret. I think he asked if he scared me, but I was in no mood to give more words than I had to, so I uttered a syllable that seemed somewhat like "mrrrm" and kept on going.
At the checkout, he tried to pay for my two dollar box of Poptarts, to which I got a little pissed off, and emphatically waved my hand in complete impatience. I said "No, no, no!!" My dinner was going to be mine, not paid for by some stranger! He trailed me out of the store without purchasing anything himself, and he motioned towards where he lived. I shook my head and then walked the other way, turning the corner down a street I had never before stepped on. Did he return to the store to make his purchases, or to his abode? I do not know, for I hurried away, hastening to put many blocks and houses between us.
And so concludes "Maria and Miguel," a tale that provides yet more proof of how terrible a liar I am.
I saw Blob Lady today, sitting just as she did before ... and though she seemed a little more alert to the presence of others today, her knee still remained firmly atop a second seat. Thus far, I think that mountain moves for no one.