In Heat

I’ve never seen him, but he’s clearly smitten with her. She’s one of our regulars, and it’s the first time I’ve seen her on the #35 with a boy in tow – his exuberant, minor-league groping invites “boy” as the descriptor despite them both looking like they’re in their twenties – and this afternoon anomaly coupled with his cartoonish inability to keep his hands to himself suggests he recently sampled the sweetness of her skin for the first time and he’s eager for another taste. He doesn’t know the bus route, can’t count the stops until their destination, and despite several deliberate efforts to control himself, his hands barely sit still for a three-block stretch before he’s stroking her forearm with the back of his finger or brushing the pale green fabric that gift-wraps her thighs.

On a autumn day this attention might excite her; she might appreciate his urgency and feel empowered by his inability to resist her. But today it’s 100 degrees and she wants him to stop. She doesn’t say so, but her body language is clear, a language the boy doesn’t speak, and his constant contact annoys her. His persistence is becoming repulsive, her mood growing foul as the sun through the window bakes her bare shoulders. She scowls, and I imagine her imagining his hot body pressing her into the hot sheets of her hot bedroom, his hot breath in her hot ear, droplets of his hot sweat dripping from his hot face and dropping onto hers. She doesn’t respond as he nudges and nuzzles but her eyes harden as she stares out the bus windows at a neighborhood soaked in too much summer. Finally she grabs his hand as it’s rubbing her leg and tosses it away as if it’s a disgusting thing she doesn’t want touching her.

He winces from the rebuff and she realizes how ungentle she’d been with his arm, with his feelings, and to make amends, she reaches over and pats his wrist awkwardly, the way a person would reassure a dog after a scolding. Her hand, refusing to linger on his flesh, bounces in half-hearted taps that convey no intimacy until she decides her obligatory apology is complete and she pulls her hand back into her own personal space. He’s struggling to interpret her actions, probably because his libido is focused only on the soft curves of her neck and the voluptuous terrain below. His desire is unconcerned by the temperature and oblivious to her shifting mood, so when he stupidly reaches to touch her again, she snatches her messenger bag from the bus floor and places it in her lap without acknowledging him.

He asks her something and she nods, still refusing to make eye contact. He grins again and retrieves his own bag from beneath his seat, elated their stop is next. She stands before the bus slows and walks up next to the driver. I see him sneak a glimpse at the fit of her jeans as he rises to his feet, but his inattention to balance and lurch of the bus as it stops causes him to stumble back awkwardly onto the bench. She doesn’t see any of this – she thanks the driver and steps out into the oven of the afternoon, the boy chasing after her as if she might get away. As I watch them through the bus window, I see her walking purposefully toward the shade of a maple as he scurries up behind, whatever he’s saying to her going unheard or unheeded. As the bus pulls away, I see he has gotten too close to her again and I feel bad for him, unaware as he is of the impending collision of how much he wants her and how little he understands her.

About Bill Reagan

Bill Reagan enjoys how public transit juxtaposes neighbors and strangers in a way no other microcosm of our community can. He likes eavesdropping, striking up random conversations, and watching how people act when they think no one is looking. He can be found online at and @WilliamReagan on Twitter.
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