XXI. "You're Ignorant! You're Ignorant!"
The driver descended from the MegaBus door and stood in the gutter next to the accumulating line. He smoked a cigarette and periodically pulled his sagging gray slacks back on top of the slope of his protruding waist. His dark eyes looked like dirty pebbles, heavy and small. He had a thick Pancho Villa mustache that was almost comically primped, turning down at both sides. He watched the shallow ducks daintily heave their bags into the storage compartment below the bus. People in line looked at him like he ought to help. He spat in response.
Wheeler and I held back while the bus filled, and I peeked between the bobbing heads and made a note of where precisely the chickadees had sat. They were third or fourth row up from the rear.
The front half of the bus was still scarcely sat, and from behind the line I eyed an empty spot on the right side close to the front. I positioned Wheeler ahead of me to ensure I was adequately hidden.
"You don't want them to see you? Just come here," said Wheeler, putting his arm around my neck like I was about to be the victim of a noogie. He quickly pulled his t-shirt over my head. His abdomen was damp and salty against my face and I struggled to walk down the aisle without hitting what felt like chairs, or arms, or bags. Wheeler laughed gaily and popped me out into an empty seat.
"You're ridiculous. And disgusting," I said.
"That was just as obvious as what you were doing, hiding behind me like a little kid. Who the fuck cares if you know those girls?"
"I can't explain it."
He put his backpack up above the seat and sat down next to me. He scratched his nails on the chair by his lap, tracing the multicolored laser-like dashes seamed into the thick royal blue fabric. M*A*S*H was playing on the small TV in front of us, and the familiar theme song competed with the hushed sounds of slow classic rock coming from the driver's personal radio.
Three Amish people settled in a few seats behind us, and I wondered how fascinated they were or how shameful they felt over all the exposed knees everywhere on the bus. I imagine that to Amish people, the bluntness of all the exposed knees and shoulder blades would be the equivalent of me walking onto a bus with butts and boobs abounding, with no apologies or complaints.
I heard a program on NPR about an Amish boy who took a spiritual sabbatical on his 18th birthday. He left his community for 6 months, and at the end of the sabbatical he could either choose to return to the Amish way of life, or dissent into mainstream culture forever. He ended up getting addicted to meth.
These three looked meth free, and they were only an arms reach away, which excited me. I could faintly hear the sound of their conversation. Their possible topics for discussion filled me with curiosity. I figured they may banter over homemade furniture, or jam, or cornfields, ears of corn, religious paraphernalia, sin, buttons, maybe... hats. If I was raised Amish, the lure of meth (or anything shiny or sharp really) would likely be my demise too.
Everyone else around was boring and ugly. Across from us, an overweight black girl was talking on the phone with one hand and eating flaming hot Cheetos with the other. She had long fake pink nails with detailed white designs etched on them. She had a backpack sitting on the seat next to her, even though the bus was nearly full.
I remember one time when Cait and I went for a walk through Lincoln Park, we happened to be slightly drunk and we walked straight through a kid's soccer game. It was clearly a huge interruption, and an angry dad ran after us, screaming, "You're ignorant! You're ignorant!" That's all he said. I suppose he was right, but at the time the complaint lacked so much specificity to me. For some reason the vision of this big girl eating hot Cheetos and not giving a damn about taking up two seats made me think of that screaming dad.
There was an old woman standing in front of the big girl who had a look on her face like she knew she was old and everyone else should care. She waited for someone to help her put her bag into the upper storage compartment. The big girl didn't get up. I nudged Wheeler and he noisily got up and made a big fuss over her. He called her sweetheart. I thought for a moment that he may slap her ass, but thankfully he just faked the motion when she wasn't looking.
I looked back to see the Amish people's reactions but they were stone cold serious. I could imagine the Amish man thinking about corn or buttons to distract himself from the mainstream buffoonery.
Wheeler sat back down and tried but failed to put his arm around my shoulder. I pushed him off of me like a reflex. The bus was already running 30 minutes behind schedule, but we remained outside of Union Station. The doors were still open and the driver still stood on the curb, smoking and grinning beneath that Pancho Villa.
A couple walked on, a skinny looking tough guy, and a sort of pretty, short girl with blond hair and pale chicken legs. "Right here babe," said the skinny boy. His voice was out of context, full and deep, like someone important and strong. He was damn skinny though. They both were. She handed him her bag and went into the window seat. "You want this babe?" He pulled out a magazine from the bag pouch.
"Hopefully this 'babe' shit doesn't go on for seven whole hours," I said to Wheeler. Again I imagined that soccer dad, screaming and running after us, "You're ignorant! You're ignorant!"
The tough kid's chest was sort of puffed out, and he took a snarled glance around the bus before sitting down next to his babe.
"You wanna get fucked up, 'babe'?" Wheeler pulled out a pint of Jack from his sock.
"Sure, why not."
We turned towards each other and took turns drinking from the small bottle.
"Don't worry. I have reinforcements too," he said.
The driver got on the bus and closed the door. He situated himself in the seat and got on the intercom, "Afternoon folks. Thanks for choosing MegaBus. We're a bit behind schedule today, but we'll still be making stops for breaks and dinner. We'll be getting to our final destination, Minneapolis, about an hour later than planned. But don't worry, we'll leave the light on for ya." He looked into the rear view mirror and winked, as though he anticipated some laughter. However it wasn't funny, not even a little bit. Some big nut in the back killed the silence and laughed like he may explode or die from hilarity.
I hit my head lightly against the window.
Wheeler nudged my arm with his elbow. "Hey, if I get drunk enough, will you give me 10 dollars to grope hot Cheetos over there?"