To the girl w/short blonde curls on the 373 bus (Udistrict)
It was really hard not staring at you for the four whole stops I was on the bus for, you're so beautiful. I don't know if it was a coincidence that our eyes met a few times and we both looked back at the same time when I got off, but if it wasn't, I hope I see you again.
-Orange beanie, black headphones, blue shirt guy standing by the back door going up University on Monday
Maya Sommer waited for the bus to the University. The bus was late by seven minutes. To other people, delays may not be a problem, but for Maya, it was critical that things worked smoothly. She needed to be at work by 8:30 a.m. With her walk to her job, she would arrive about 8:32, and that was unacceptable. To her only. Her bosses let her know she didn’t have to be so punctual, but she’d preferred it. It was important to her.
When the bus arrived, she stepped on and didn‘t even bother seeking a seat. The bus was always full. She didn’t look at the people on the bus. Her attention remained on finding a spot to stand and hold on tight as the bus moved through University Ave. The bus took off with a jolt, making her bump into a person standing beside her.
She peered up at the tall figure. Their eyes locked. Recognition sparked in her mind. The orange beanie was unmistakable. He was a regular on the bus line.
“I’m sorry.” She shifted her legs to balance against the pothole-ridden road.
“No problem.” He seemed to want to say something else, but he pursed his lips and turned away. The black headphones covered one ear and his temple.
There were many times when they’d locked eyes. She preferred not to look into the eyes of a stranger, but she couldn‘t help but stare off into the distance as her mind raced with her action steps: in another twelve minutes the bus would turn onto her campus; her walk would take eight minutes; putting away her things would take…
“I’ve seen you on this bus line for a while…“ She calculated that it had been more like nine months. "Are you a student or do you work at the University?”
She looked at his face, but avoided eye contact. It was easier to train her eyes on his nose. Despite the rumble of the engine and the sounds of life in the street, she heard him ask again. “Are you a student?”
Her curls tumbled over her shoulders as she shook her head. “No.” She looked away. It was all the information she’d intended to give. He seemed friendly enough and had been part of her daily routine, but he didn’t need to know her business.
“I’m sorry. That was intrusive.”
She saw him frown. In front of him, a woman stood up to exit at the next stop. The seat was free for him to sit, but he remained standing. He extended his hand at the empty spot.
“No, thank you. I’m getting off soon.” Her tote slipped off her shoulder. She would have loved to have taken a seat, but she didn‘t like being caged in by all the bodies.
A woman approached from his right side and slipped into the empty seat. He and Maya smiled at each other, chuckling as the opportunist got comfortable. His hand rose above them and pressed the signal strip for the next stop. A mixture of relief and disappointment coiled in her belly. She wanted him to continue riding the bus with her, but she didn‘t want to respond to his questions. He was a comforting presence, but he also took her out of her daily practice.
“I hope you have a good day.” He pivoted to walk around her.
“Maya.” She clutched the handrail tighter. “I’m Maya.”
His brow rose as if trying to decipher what she’d said or surprised that she attempted further conversation. “Calvin. Calvin Dodson.”
“Will I see you on the 7:54 bus tomorrow, Calvin?” She didn‘t smile but Calvin grinned widely.
“You will.” He pulled his headphones down to rest around his neck. “I’ll see you in the morning, Maya.”
She smiled, nodding as she looked into his blue eyes. “Your stop is coming up in two minutes.”
The bus slowed down. He looked down before taking another step. “I’d like to take you out for coffee sometime.”
“I can’t. I have to get to work in about fourteen minutes.” The bus came to a stop. “And you must get off. I’ll see you tomorrow, Calvin.”
People behind him urged him along. “Tomorrow then.” He walked out of the bus. He stood outside and waved at Maya through the dirty windows.
She smiled, a warmth settled in her chest. When it was her turn to exit the bus, she said to the driver, “I hope you’re not late tomorrow.” She hoped Calvin wouldn‘t miss the bus on account of the bus driver’s failure to a simple schedule.