Flash-fiction 02: Bus driver REVISED

“Watch your step, sir.”

“I’ll watch my fucking step, you fucking prick!”

“Doors are closing.”

“Yeah, fuck you.”

Some dirty old vagrant drunk, still muttering as he shuffled to the back of the bus. You don’t let a guy like that get to you. Ain’t worth it. You choose your battles.

King. Richmond. Queen.

“Yo, man! How much is it?”

“Three seventy-five cash fare.”

“Yo, man, TTC must be raking it in large! What the fuck is that, bro?”

“That’s the cash fare. Buy tokens and it’s only two seventy-five.”

“Yo, bro, then sell me a fuckin’ token, yo!”

“Tokens are only sold at the station, sir. If you’re paying cash it’s three seventy-five.”

“What!? That’s wack! What the fuck is the difference, yo? You gonna let me on for two seventy-five or what, bro?”

I wanted the drunk guy back instead of this shit. I closed the door, continued driving and said nothing. If he dropped two seventy-five in the machine I’d drop the matter. What I couldn’t do was bring myself to say “Two seventy-five is fine, sir.” He was still standing there.

“Yo, bro! I only got a toonie. I’m paying a FUCKING toonie!”

He slammed the coin in the machine. He’d had enough of our little conversation. That was me ten minutes ago. He waited for a reaction. I said nothing.

Shuter. Dundas. Gould.

“Thank you very much, sir. You are a very patient man. I hope you have a great evening. Or morning, I guess. Good night.”

“Good night, ma’am.”

Nice of her.

Gerrard. Carlton. Alexander.

“Reggie, baby! Long time! You’re not over at Starbucks anymore!? Driving a bus now!?”

“Hey! Nice to see you. How you been? No I left there almost two years ago.”

“I thought you were over at another location! Well good to see you, Reggie!”

“Good to see you, too.”

I didn’t call him by name and I hoped he didn’t notice. It was hard to keep track of all the customers’ names. Easier to remember their character. He was the tall skinny old guy with the Bluetooth and the hours on Plenty of Fish. Right there in the middle of a crowded Starbucks, on a dating site when he could have said hello to the people around him. Anyway that’s how it goes these days.

Wellesley.

“Hi, do you go as far as Finch station?”

Well here was a piece of ass. An open three quarter length tweed jacket over some sexy skirt and shirt combination and stockings that reached just over the knee. Fucking hell. Thick ass lips and strong, high cheek bones. The kind that past-due ugly old ladies with too much money try to achieve with their frightening and not nearly successful plastic surgeries. This girl was a child. A sexy beautiful lady child. Looked about twenty-three, if I had to say. So it was all real. Her beauty, I mean. I couldn’t pretend not to notice.

“Last stop is Steeles, miss.”

A villainous smile and she dropped her token in the machine and sat up front in one of those seats you are expected to vacate should an elderly or handicapped person get on. She sat there for me. To tempt me. I caved. I looked over at her. Yeah, she saw me. Fuck. She smiled at me in the rearview mirror. Well fuck! I hoped no old or disabled people would be getting on.

She got right onto her cell phone. That’s how it goes these days. I didn’t mind. Let me look at those damned knee-high stockings for a bit without her catching me. She tucked her phone in the pocket of her tweed jacket. Her eyes slowly closed, her head fell to the side, her mouth began to hang open a bit. That damn well killed me. Those huge, luscious lips on that sweet, wet, open mouth. She was asleep.

Gloucester. Charles. Bloor. Church. Aylmer. Crescent.

Stupid, obnoxious drunk kids by the boatload. The blathering, the high-pitched shouting, the self-importance. God bless the Blue Line.

Rowanwood. Shaftesbury. Woodlawn.

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Flash-fiction 02: Bus driver

One thirty. Pitch black outside and here in my room, too. It’s been warm enough to keep the window open in the evenings now and the only sound is a bit of whistle from the wind and the odd car driving by. Alarm goes off but I’m already awake. My body knows what it needs to do.

My duffle bag is already packed. All I have to do is make a coffee and get dressed and take the bag with me. My shift starts at two and I live just around the corner from the station so staying in bed this long is actually a luxury. Some of the guys tell me they get up at midnight and one. So in that way I am lucky.

I drive the three twenty Yonge Blue Night. This was the dream job. Took a long time to get in. After highschool I worked a few different jobs, a clerk at we’ll-buy-your-old-gold place, a truck driver for a local shipping company. But I settled in and stayed five whole years at Starbucks. Starbucks! I met and dated a girl that used to come in there. She helped me with my resumé and finally I got in. Now I’m a bus driver.

Sometimes when I’m driving the bus I see old customers from the Starbucks. “Hello there!” They say with a sincere smile of recognition. “You’re driving a bus now! Good for you!” They’re nice, I suppose. It’s nice to see a familiar face. But then they go their way and it’s the other assholes, one after another, all night long. At the coffee shop and now, I meet a lot of people. And it seems I owe them all something. Before it was a free coffee for too long a wait in line. Now it’s my life, my mind, my soul.

I make a lot more money now, of course. I have more security and all that. But it’s always just enough because Starbucks paid the rent and now the Toronto Transit Commission pays the mortgage. There is always the same left over for living. Just a little. Anyway there isn’t much time or even desire for living with a schedule like this and thankless, tiresome work like this.

One time this guy got on, about my age. It was about four in the morning. He was drunk. They mostly all are at that time. He was stumbling up onto the bus and I said, “Watch your step, sir.” He said, “I’ll watch my fucking step you fucking prick!” Sure you develop a thick skin and remember not to take it personally and get used to it, but it still leaves a small chip in the soul. If you’re still human underneath it all. If you still remember your humanity.

I pull out of the station at exactly two. You can’t even be ambitious or a keener and work faster or ahead of schedule because then you mess up the arrival times and everyone lets you know how you ruined their lives. You just do your job, exactly as prescribed, and take the shit. The constant shit.

First stop. Second stop. Third stop. Faceless, speechless forms shuffle on. Oh, some smile and say hello. They do. Most say nothing. And some tell me to fuck off or myself or my mother. It’s always different and it’s always the same.

“Do you go as far as Union?” She asked. She got on at St. Clair. There was just her. She was wearing an open three quarter length tweed jacket over some sexy skirt and shirt combination and stockings that reached just over the knee. She had those thick lips and high cheek bones that older too-rich women try to achieve with their frightening and unsuccessful plastic surgeries. But this girl was too young, looked about twenty-five, if I had to say. So it had to be real. Her beauty, I mean.

“Last stop is Union station,” I replied. I smiled a bit but the days of flirting and hoping were long over at this stage. Eight years of little to no success taught a man to learn his place.

“I actually need to go to…Wellington Street. Do you stop there?”

“I can stop there for you. I’ll announce when we arrive.”

She smiled and said thank you and sat up front in one of the seats you are expected to vacate should an elderly or handicapped person get on. I looked over and she gave me another smile. This time I smiled right back. I hoped no old or disabled people would be getting on. I know what I said about the not hoping, but it would be damned nice to look at those stockings for a bit.

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FROM HERE ON IN

Today begins a new phase in my life. I sold my car, I cut my hair, and I quit the gym. I am giving myself a budget of $20 per day for all food and drink. That includes groceries, restaurants, bottles of wine, glasses of wine. Will be strict but doable. At least until Paris.

I am going to treat writing more like a job. « Be prolific  » the guy with the Hemingway tattoo on the subway had said to me. Not profound but the words rang and ring like pure wisdom. I could see the two words, like a billboard in the air, simple and true and exactly what I need to do. The answer.

I spent almost the entire day last Thursday organizing all the stuff I’ve written up to now in a file called « Writings. » I had been tormenting myself about going back and editing this and fixing that, etcetera. Instead I will take what I know I need to fix and apply it to the next thing. This is a new phase. I’ve been given an assignment from a published author and it will be Flash Fiction 02. I squirm in embarrassment about my Flash Fiction 01. But I refuse to delete it. Like a bad dog, I don’t delete it, I rub my nose in it. This is how we learn.

It’s six thirty-two in the morning, Easter Monday, cloudy, seven degrees, fourth and final day off. After this short blog it’s home-brewed espressos and the writing project and a run outside and sushi with an old friend and a back-to-life shower and then hopefully a bicycle ride in the forecasted twenty-one-degree warmth and sunshine with the new very cool boy in a little black dress and high heels the way I love to do. Perhaps we will go to a park with the Sue Townsend book and a bottle of wine or his flask and he can read to me again. This would be very, very nice. Hemingway said, « In order to write about life, first you must live it. » But, of course.

Tomorrow it’s back to real life. There is everything before this post, and everything after it.

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Those Nine Cards

I must stop lamenting that love is not in the cards for me. Well there are fifty-one others, aren’t there? And I have not been dealt such a bad hand otherwise.

Life could be a game of Crazy Eights. So love would be like the Queen of Spades, pick up five, the all-powerful game changer. Or perhaps more like all four eights, the power to change the course, the direction. Or like the Jacks, cancelling out someone else’s turn, freezing the other player. Or perhaps love is like all these combined.

That’s nine cards!

But still there are forty-three others. The other player can still win, even if they have only happened upon aces and twos in their cache. Like myself, seemingly or perhaps. Anyway, at the end of the deck it all gets shuffled and replayed and it’s really anyone’s game until it’s absolutely over, isn’t it?

Well I am starting to think he can only lay down with me when he is drunk. I know this trick but until now it has always been me at the winning end of the bargain. Not the poor sod who jumps. But if I just quit worrying about those nine cards, I think I would enjoy the match quite a lot more. And in this way there really is no need to lament.

And anyway it has happened more than once that I’ve been down to my last card while the other player still had loads in hand and my victory was sure and then it didn’t come to pass and I lost. But also, the other player won. So there’s the bit about time and chance.

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Funny. I didn’t mention writing.

Draw. Smoke. Sip wine. Read. Wash a dish or whatever. Repeat. The new step to the cycle is the drawing. Well I am no artist and I know I am supposed to practice and I paid all this money to take not one but two courses. Glutton for punishment. Impulsive times two. So I thought I should practice.

So I came home from work last night and saw my pristine new sketchbook there on the table with my cool new pencil case and knew that inside were my 8B, 6B, 4B, 2B, HB, F, 2H, 4H, 6H pencils that had cost me nearly twenty dollars. Twenty dollars for pencils! I collect them off the hallway floors at school for free, don’t I? But these were special and it was my little kit.

So I sat down and drew something. Exactly what was in front of me: the bookshelves and the plant and the sign “Swim between the flags” and the vase of dried roses. And it turned out just fine. Not horrible. So I felt good.

So today I had that positive residue still over me and over the spot on the table where I have been leaving my sketchbook and pencil case kit. So I thought I would practice again. Well sometimes you just have a boy on your mind and so that was what or whom I wanted to draw. And it turned out just fine. Not too horrible at all.

And so I did what all normal people do these days and I posted my mediocre accomplishment on Facebook. And then a friend whom is really so far an acquaintance commented: Hey, draw me! And I thought I would because I was on a roll. And I drew him and it was awful.

Anyway I sent him the thing but I did not post it publicly. So I learned that my roll is one drawing per day. Or maybe I learned that I draw things much better to which I have an emotional attachment. Or maybe I learned that when I draw semi-well that it is just a fluke like that painting I painted a few years ago which inspired me to buy an easel and paints and I painted several shitty paintings before giving up and all my art supplies away. Or maybe I learned that I am just learning and that sometimes I will draw okay drawings and sometimes I won’t. That’s it.

Eight o’clock and the last straggling rays of daylight scuffle out. They warn you. Hey. Night is coming. Brace yourself. Chapter three of The Sun Also Rises. Half a pack of cigarettes. Half a bottle of wine. And that same, stupid boy on my mind. Smoke. Sip wine. Read. Repeat.

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Becoming More Human

It’s like I’m rubbing my nose in it. The sitting on my ass, the eating fast food as I drive, the not going for a run, the not going to the gym. Part of it is that it’s my last chance to act like a stupid asshole. But it’s also that since I have come up with the brilliant idea of incorporating exercise into my lifestyle, making it a function of my life and not an additional task, I can’t bear to just go for a run for the sake of running and not for arriving at a destination I need to get to, a mode of transportation.

The Wendy’s chili is simply my crack. I’ve given up the fight.

It’s like I’ve been saying these last few weeks leading up to my big lifestyle change: we pay to have the ease and convenience of a car. Then we pay again to go to a gym and do mundane repetitious “fake work” to burn the calories we saved by driving our fat asses around everywhere.

Growing up, we didn’t have a car, so I can fathom not having one. Approaching this life-changing endeavour of getting rid of my car, I have had friends say: I can’t fathom not owning a car. Well if you can’t fathom not owning a car then you are way too far removed from your own humanity! We weren’t born in cars, I love to break it to you. (Slightly off topic, but this is as annoying and akin to people who say: I cannot function without my morning coffee. If you cannot function without a coffee, perhaps you simply need to sleep more or, conversely, to get more exercise. And I have more than once made the joke that soon babies in North America are going to be born with little Starbucks coffee cups attached to their poor fetus hands. You go to Starbucks every morning because monkey see, monkey do and because of the inundation of Starbucks coffee shops and because of forgetting to think and because we live in a nation of zombies or robots, the walking incarnations and regurgitations of our eyeballs’ every resting place also known as advertisements. But I digress.)

Of course I can still go for a run to clear my head or because I simply want to but not because I have to or need to.

I have always had a strong aversion to the word should.

Anyhoo. Six days left as an automobile owner. Impatient, excited and deliciously scared as hell!

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Snapshot 01

It had been a lovely evening.

“Good night.”

“Good night.”

A peck.

But on the lips.

“I don’t know what we’re doing.”

“I don’t know either.”

– I can’t see it at all anymore. I don’t know what’s good or where I’m failing. It has to simmer on its own awhile. — (Hemingway)

Funny how the art, the lyrics, are always uncannily relevant.

Anyway.

Sometimes there are just poetic moments.

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