The girl at the corner of the bus — what is she thinking about? She has long wavy black hair that streams down the front of her face; that she pushes back occasionally as it blocks the view of her phone screen. She wears a black tank top that accentuates the swell of her chest. Black-framed spectacles. From where I sit, this is all I can observe; that all she wears is black, and I wonder if this is random. Did she just so happen to pick put all these items from her wardrobe, or was this intentional? Is black a message, or is black a deliberate covering up? Covering up unpleasant curves, turning everything formless, more desirable? Was that the plan, or is black simply a statement? I am wearing black because I am sad. I am wearing black because I appear sad but am anything but. I am wearing black because I am on a way to a funeral at 10 AM. It could be any of these things, or none of them.
She must be about my age, if not just slightly younger.
Her face looks strangely content, as if her life up to this point has been smooth sailing. Her eyebrows are probably threaded, her nose long and sharp, eyes not too big or too small. Her lips aren’t what one would consider small. But it doesn’t make her look unattractive. In fact, it might even look good on her. Her skin looks yellow from where I sit, maybe it’s the reflection of light off the red seats that illuminate her, maybe her skin colour leans closer to white or beige. But for now, I’ll stick to yellow. Yes, she seems strangely yellow.
She looks down at her phone for what must be the 53rd time. I can guess what she’s looking at even without walking over and kicking up a fuss. Instagram, Facebook, Telegram, WhatsApp, then Instagram again. She may be swiping through Tinder. It’s the sort of covertness the corner of the bus affords. She looks impatient suddenly. Perhaps the ride is stretching on too long. Maybe I’m projecting my own impatience on her.
She must be thinking of something right now. She has stopped looking through her phone but out of the window instead, at the streets of Little India. The colours and sights stream past like a blur shot in a Wong Kar Wai film. The people stand in the sun waiting; for traffic lights, for buses, for each other, but waiting. She sees it all and she must be thinking about how mundane it all is. That we get to see the same things over and over and still we look on.
Or maybe she’s thinking of how to escape it all, and that looking back down through her phone might just be the only way for now. Ok, now I’m definitely projecting.
But there she is. And she must be thinking, that out of all the streets that hold all their secrets, that sprawl outwards from where I sit, that of all the things in the world I could explore or be or feel or savour; that I am trapped in this bus, scrolling through my phone on my way to some forlorn destination. And a skinny boy is glancing at me once every few minutes, typing vigorously on his phone. He sits diagonal to me, sunlight splashing across the side of his body. Maybe she wonders what I’m typing away on my phone.
She’ll probably never guess.