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Waiting for the bus

Words: Sarah Jayne Fell

She waits at the bus stop one afternoon and her daydreams succumb to the summer heat. Vision blurs as her gaze is absorbed by the shimmering mirage on the road and she is far away in the desert somewhere, delirious, or on drugs. And then into her daydream flits a glimpse of green, gliding almost, a flare against the night, drawing her out of the haze of colour and light and dust, and she sees an empty beer bottle: glistening glass rolling down the empty road; then faster and faster as it picks up speed, a label chasing its tail, dizzied colour, a blur of redyellowblackandwhite on green. Then the slope wanes and it slows, drifting daringly across to the wrong side of the road, rolling slower and slower, and then stops. It comes to rest near the side of the road in front of her, not quite out of the way. As a car approaches, she wonders if it will hit the bottle. If it does, will it shatter into a thousand pieces, launching a shower of green glass through the air, a firework display against the tarmac? Or will it be crushed with a single crunch of a bulldozing wheel into the baking road? And as the car approaches, it lies there playing chicken, refusing to move to safety. Emerald eyes twinkle, while hers, frozen, anticipate slamming shut when green shrapnel slices through air and skin. The car whips past just missing the bottle and it is left oscillating gently, not quite trembling, but shaking, with laughter perhaps. More and more cars hurtle past and she sits there, shielding herself with her paperback novel, squeezing her eyes shut and flinching at the sound of each car that draws near. She imagines thick daggers of glass flying wildly toward her like stray bullets that could gash out her eyes and slash her flesh. And yet she stays there, watching, her fear numbed by curiosity, unable to take her greedy eyes off the glinting green glass. When the bus finally approaches, she is relieved at her pending escape. But as the bus comes nearer, growling and hissing and spitting, its huge tyre edges toward the bottle, now almost black as it lies quivering in the shadow of the looming form above it. She shuts her eyes, imagines herself jumping up, screaming for the bus to stop. In the split second that she realises the driver wouldn’t hear her, she pictures throwing herself in front of the bus to rescue the defenceless little body, to protect its fragile shell. As she sits she begins to cry, and then she is weeping, still holding the book in front of her face. And she sits like that for a while, rocking, breathing, calmed by the smell of the pages, the cool of their paper against her cheeks, and their shade against the sun. She looks up and sees the road is empty once more. The bus has left. No one is around. A breeze stirs her thoughts and her body and she gets up, deciding to walk. She looks around to check again that no one is there, steps into the road, and picks up the beer bottle. Its hot green glass burns her hand and stale fumes invade her nostrils. And then as she stares into its gleaming eye, she raises her arm and smashes the bottle against the tar.

Concave shards of green come to rest then, glistening and moist with drops of beer, a thousand eyes crying. And she is glad.

© Sarah Jayne Fell

Written as part of a Creative Writing portfolio of flash fiction and prose poetry, as part of an Honours Degree in English completed at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban in 2007. It was subsequently published in the American Literary Magazine ‘The Laundry Room’.