[Warning! I curse a little bit in this]
Is that what I think it is?
Oh God, it is! Look away. Don’t look. Don’t look. I can’t unsee it – *HURRFF!*
Close your eyes and try to think of something other than the man who just got on the bus with the giant mustache covered in snot. I’ve got a sensitive stomach; it doesn’t take much to make me wretch. Snot was all over his… *hurrff!!* Think. Think. Look at your cute little clothes. Those cute pinstripe shorts you got for $5 at Robinsons-May. You’ll be at Emily’s in no time. Mustache. Shut up, mind! Stop torturing me! Snotty Mustache! *Hurrff!* Can’t unsee!! Can’t unsee!! Ooo, Emily’s apartment complex, pull the cord!
Ding! Oh thank God. Oh please let me get off the Snotty Mustache Express without vomiting. Don’t look at him as you walk by… don’t look at him as you walk by… OH SWEET MOTHER OF TAP DANCING JESUS IT’S STILL THERE. I managed to muster a “thank you” to the bus driver and stepped off the bus. I felt cold sweat cover my brow, and I doubled over letting out a final dry *hurrff!* before I entered the AM/PM across from Emily’s apartments. I was starving, and wanted a quick lunch before I went to her place. I grabbed a big, fat, juicy hot dog and began to cross the street. I bit into it and began to chew. Snotty Mustache! Damn you, asshole brain. Damn you.
If this was the worst experience I had on the Tucson bus system, I would have been lucky. Alas, no. Between Emily living in the middle of No-Tel Mo-Tel Hell and the demilitarized zones I would later live in, I often wound up on bad bus routes and experienced the gross, weird and scary world of public transit.
As winter break neared, I went to Our Lady Queen of Shopping (known by non-believers as the Tucson Mall) and bought Emily a frying pan for some reason I can no longer recall. I walked to the bus stop to wait for the bus line that stopped in front of Emily’s apartment complex. There was a man sitting in a wheelchair who greeted me when I sat down. “Hello,” he said.
“Hi, how are you?” I looked over at him, and noticed that his limbs were randomly wrapped in foam padding, like the kind you would see under a carpet. We chatted for a while, and I got a serious creepy vibe from the guy. I figured he was injured or something, and tried to ignore the Stranger Danger alarm. My social anxiety always kept me amped up, and I felt like I tended to be overly avoidant and cautious with people. Don’t be a dick. Connect with people. Damn you, brain. Ok. We began to talk about music and singing. See? This isn’t so bad. We’re connecting.
He smiled creepily. “I love Christmas music.”
“Me too!” Connecting. Look at me! I’m actually talking to a stranger; making eye contact and all that jazz. I’m so proud of myself!
“Can you sing me a Christmas song?”
Connecting with a stra…wha?? “Oh, um… I don’t know…” The bus stop was filling with people.
“Please? It would mean so much to me.”
All of a sudden my brain, who was so cruel to me in the Snotty Mustache episode, spoke to me with righteous indignation. The man in the wheelchair wants you to sing to him. Is that so hard? Can you do a good thing for once and sing for this man? It’s the Christmas season – what would Jesus do? Damn it, brain.
“Um… okay. What would you like me to sing?”
His eyes widened. “What is your favorite Christmas song?”
“O Holy Night.”
“Okay…” And God help me, I sang it. He started to belt in with me. To his credit, he had a decent tenor voice. Slowly people started edging away from us at the bus stop. Crap! They thought I was a crazy person too!
“O COME ALL YE FAITHFULL… SING IT WITH ME!!!” He began to wail, singing like he was at a Revival. I complied.
“Joyful and triumphant…” I squeaked. Where is that damn bus? People, I’m not crazy, I’m just singing to make a man wrapped in foam happy. I–stop averting my gaze! It’s the Christmas season! Sing with the man! DON’T JUDGE ME!
We continued on to two additional carols, and if this happened in the days of YouTube, I’m sure we would have been captured on a phone only to be auto-tuned to viral perfection. Thank God for small favors.
The bus finally came, and he got on first, with the driver using the special lift and wheelchair seating that was on the front of the bus. I got on the bus and noticed it was standing room only. The girl in front of me stood beside his wheelchair, as I began to walk towards the back. He grabbed my wrist and glared at the girl. “You need to move. That’s my friend’s spot.” Oh, shit. He’ll be wearing my skin as a suit before the night is out. I hope I at least make a cute suit. The girl shrugged her shoulders and moved to the back. I stood beside him as he hummed Christmas songs. I thought about the frying pan in my shopping bag. Okay, if he does something crazy, I have a weapon! Or, you know, I could run. He started to ask me where I lived, and I gave him an incorrect generic answer. As we neared Emily’s apartment, I pulled the cord, and we eased to a stop. I looked at my foam-covered friend, and smiled nervously. “It was nice meeting you…”
He looked angry that I was leaving him. “I hope to see you again.”
“Um yea!” And I ran off the bus. I held the frying pan in a defensive grip and high-tailed it to Emily’s apartment, just in case. When I told her the story, she looked at me like I was a damned fool and said, “Oh, he was faking it! He probably used the foam to make it look like he was bandaged…what were you thinking?”
“I…well…I…” Damn you, brain!
Ha, ha, sucka! Oh, and… snotty mustache!