Something was off when Alicia woke up at the 6:20 alarm. She slipped on the silky scatter rug as she rolled out of bed, and felt a giddy dizziness when she straightened; she knew she hadn’t drunk that much wine last night?
She showered, grabbed the lunch already in the fridge and downed a yogurt drink. Cloudy, she fished around her bag for keys, when of course they were in the side pouch, as they always were. Why would she think they weren’t?
Still dark as Alicia left the building by the side door, not using the front door as she usually did for work; the bus stop was on the main street in front of the parking and landscaped lawn of her condo. Walking down the path she noticed an elderly neighbour approaching; the shit-zhu with the fluffy tail starting an uncustomary growl. Alicia smiled but before she could say good morning, she heard:
“What is the little witch doing today? What is that trashy skirt she’s wearing?”
Alicia was so shocked she just nodded as they passed, and then realized the woman was smiling and nodding back. And her mouth had clearly not even opened, much less spoken to her out loud. Shaken, Alicia wondered how she could have imagined such an outburst from the woman?
The bus wasn’t early, nor late, and Alicia stepped on with her pass ready to scan. The driver didn’t look at her as the bus smoothly pulled away and she sat down with a practiced plop on the outside of an available spot. It was farther back than she normally took.
Across the aisle on the side-sitting seats, a young man, just a student, glanced at her as she settled. Eyes meeting momentarily, Alicia heard him say, “Mind your own business, bitch, I have a mission today.”
Confused, Alicia glanced back, and again, she heard the young man, “Today’s the day, finally, school sucks I’m out of here so is Madame Fat-Ass and the shit class, and whoever, reload shit, …” And on it went. And his mouth never moved, but now he turned away from Alicia’s blatant stare.
Uh..what the …Oh my God. Alicia iced over. She couldn’t move. She saw the heavy coat and bulging gym bag. She felt the shaking start, but then forced herself to take a frozen breath. Calmly now, not looking at the boy, she got up, pressed the next-stop button and walked up to the driver. He looked at her, then up to the mirror, now back to Alicia, and then he pressed the call switch and spoke quietly.
At the next stop, the bus pulled over; nobody got off. The driver was on the phone. People on the crowded bus started to fidget and look around. Then the kid jumped up and tried to get out the back door, but it wouldn’t open, so he stomped to the front, swinging his heavy bag, staring at Alicia, who clearly heard, “Yo, bitch, out of my way, what the fuck, next time, what the fuck…” But no one else heard, and as the driver finally let him off, a police car pulled in front of the bus and grabbed the kid and took his bag.
The next morning, Alicia felt fine. She drank her yogurt, rode the bus, went to work.
Then, one day later that year, on a frigidly black, still morning, she had another dizzy spell getting out of bed.