“I don’t roll that way,” Magpie says, and maybe he doesn’t know that those are simultaneously the most painful and most galvanizing words he could possibly say. Both a punch to the gut and a kick in the seat of the pants. Not a condemnation or a judgment. Instead, it’s an “I won’t go there with you” from someone I deeply respect and adore. So I have to part from him right away, because I fear I’ll either say something in defense that sounds mean, or that he’ll see the tears I feel threatening to wet my lashes.
The bus from downtown is of course late, as it always is. Ten minutes late, and I apathetically let the rain fall on my glasses, mixing with my own rain. I’m never overly embarrassed about crying in front of strangers. It’s only crying in front of a man that humiliates me.
The truth is my hunger comes from a void. It’s the same void that generates my distrust of men. How did it form? I cannot tell for sure. A twisted family heirloom of sorts? A thing that goes hand-in-hand with a writer’s spirit? Whatever, the source is not important. It’s the current situation it’s caused that I’m battling with now.
The bus is so crowded...standing room only. Terrible, terrible. I feel so raw, and here I am standing in front of so many pairs of probing eyes. And here in the back of the bus, they are all broken people... The ragamuffin teen dykes who ask me while rolling cigarettes, “Do you do brown?” The blue-collar workers just daring life to throw one more burden at them. I scowl out the window, my heart being pulled at all four corners by some medieval torture method. At one corner are Magpie’s beautiful eyelashes and mind, and at another, his disapproval. At the third corner is the temptation to destroy everything sacred in my world, and at the fourth, an intoxicating and sparkling enchantment that is bigger than me or Magpie or anyone I know.
Here is how the story always goes. I know it well, yet have lived it again and again, like Groundhog Day (the movie). I see a magic in men that actually isn’t there, and every time I see it, I believe I am capable of harnessing it. I am certain it will turn the void into something divine, something with the power to intoxicate my passion for all eternity. But the thing about men is they’re no more magical than any other creature on this earth. The delusion is in my perception. My eyes have rainbow cracks in them. Opal-luminescent snowflakes keep swirling across my vision.
I am standing sideways in the aisle, facing the seat where a Norwegian girl sits speaking heavy Nynorsk to her travel companion. Off to my left, a few seats back, a fat drunk Native American man is sitting with an equally fat white woman. Sitting on the floor in the aisle next to them is a scruffy teenage white boy. The drunk Native starts singing, quietly at first. “Oh come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant...” The fault lines in my heart are threatening to quake, but I smile a little at his song. He sees my smile and starts singing louder. “OH COME YE OH COME YE TO BETHLEHEM...” Ah, I see. A lass scintillates most vibrantly when her heart is most conflicted. “COME AND ADORE HIM, CAN I GET YOUR PHONE NUMBER…” the Native sings. The fat white woman laughs. I smile and shake my head. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE,” the Native sings to me, still to the tune of “Oh Come All Ye Faithful”. Across the aisle from him, a young construction worker is texting on an I-Phone. The Native’s singing causes him to look up, and when he sees me, he says in the most polite way, “Sorry, Miss, I didn’t see you were standing. Please, take my seat.” Scintillating, I tell you. “That’s okay,” I say. “I’ve been sitting all day, really.” Actually, I want to hug that construction worker and cry. Instead, I pull out my little notebook and attempt to write while standing.
I have been too terrified to tell anyone. Are you ready to be the first? No man on this earth can ever love me as much as I need to be loved, that’s my secret. Which is to say that there is no expression of love a man could show that would ever be enough to slay my doubt, my suspicion, my void. And so my hunger is infinite. And so I go looking for small scraps of love from every man who glows with any amount of magic at all, because no one man is capable of giving enough, and the void demands that I collect it however I must.
I make a thousand decisions—all of them conflicting—while the Native lights a cigarette right there on the bus. To stay, to go, to stay AND go, living a lie, a dichotomy, an ugly, ugly paradoxical life. I imagine warning my husband that I am a danger, “time-explosive” as he once said. I imagine giving him a sort of disclaimer. Leave me now before it’s too late. I will hurt you, destroy you, even. It is inevitable.
The white teen sitting in the aisle takes the cigarette away from the Native, snuffs it out with purple-gloved fingers. “You’re going back to jail,” the fat white woman warns the Native. The white teen digs through his backpack, takes out a bundle of sage, and lights it to get rid of cigarette smell. (Because Sound Transit will surely view lighting sage as less against the rules than lighting cigarettes?) I take out my library book on Russia, to have something sturdier to lean my notebook against. “RUSSIA!” the Native says. “WHAT’S HAPPENIN’ IN RUSSIA?” “Trouble,” I say. “WHAT KIND OF TROUBLE?” “Woman trouble,” I say, and he hoots with laughter...
Спасибо, Magpie. You are a beautiful friend. Maybe you didn’t mean to, but I think you saved my marriage tonight. I think you made me face all I have been afraid to face.