The gaggle of women stand at the bus stop downtown, one of them yelling, her tone echoing down the canyon of the street, but her words lost in the roar of traffic. When the No. 19 arrives, my bus, they get on it.
There are five of them, finished with a Twelve Step meeting, and the one who had been shouting goes to the back of the bus, but the others stay up front. One is a mountain of a woman with a face like Jabba the Hut. Another is a rotund woman with wide-set eyes, holding a boy about a year old. The third never quite makes an impression on me, because the fourth is a woman in her thirties, whom a Jane Austen heroine might have called “lively.” She’s pretty in a way, though her skin shows the effects of tobacco.
She sits in one seat, then flings herself into another, then into yet another. She pulls from her pocket a lighter that someone gave her, with the word “love” on it. The others reply that the same man gave them things, too, but she keeps saying it’s got the word “love” on the front, until the Jabba woman gets the point and says, “Oo, looovvve.”
Then she flings herself into the seat in front of me and sings the old Tom Jones tune, “L-O-V-E,” loudly and self-consciously with big gestures. She begins playing peek-a-boo with the baby, her loud “Peek!” echoing through the bus, her long dark hair flying.
The other women tell her how boring it was when she wasn’t there.
She answers a question with the words “I don’t like women,” and continues to repeat, “I no like women,” in some generic foreign accent until the bus comes to their stop, stopping only once to clarify, “I like men.”