To the Girl Seated Next To Me

[Warning: This is a letter and it’s full of stuff I’m not used to so if you’re not into that, click here and I’ll see you next week. Also, tenses]
I don’t know if you’ll ever read this, but I’ll post it anyway. I won’t mention your name because I’m not entirely sure you’d want me to. I wrote most of this on the bus while you were seated next to me, talking to me. I don’t know if you can remember me. I was the one in a black sweatshirt and the hat that would not come off. Maybe you can recall if you try hard enough. But then again, I doubt I did anything memorable during the time we interacted.
My eyes were shut a few minutes ago, before we first started speaking. I wasn’t asleep. My eyes were just shut because it hurt to keep them open. More on this later. This bus is stuffy inside, but I’m seated at a window, so it’s not as bad for me as I imagine it is for you. I’d slide this window open for you, but it’s raining outside. You’ll just have to be strong till the weather lets up. I keep opening my eyes discreetly to look outside and occasionally to look at the people on the bus, but you keep facing my direction and you make it hard for me. Traffic is unbelievably slow right now. The bus hits a pothole (or something), thrusting me violently to my right, and I hit my head -albeit gently- against the glass. This I when I hear you giggle.
I stick my arm under my hat and start rubbing my hair. I’m not hurt; I’m just straightening things underneath. But you don’t know this. You keep giggling. Did I get hit funny or are you a sadist? I look at you, out of sheer curiosity, and you stop giggling immediately. Usually, I’d ignore you and continue the rest of the ride in abject awkwardness, but I hate being made to feel like a killjoy, because I’m not. I’m actually the opposite. I will make fun of anything as long as it’s not offensive. I’ll make fun of a bad hairstyle, but go easy on the Hitler jokes. I say that it’s not polite to laugh at strangers. You giggle again, understanding my intention and not dismissing me as some stuck-up person. You say you’re sorry, but that you couldn’t help it. You say you couldn’t hold your laughter when I was comically woken up from my sleep. Aha! So you didn’t know I was awake. I must be getting good at sneaking peeks.
I lie that I was having a good dream, and that I hate how it was interrupted. Then you ask me what I was dreaming about, and I say that I can’t tell you in a tone that suggested that my dream was not PG-13. Not at all. Of course, this is a lie, because I can’t come up with a good answer in my head right now. I’m tired. You say “okay”, but you say it with a tinge of laughter that lets me know you want to keep talking. I won’t get into detail over what we spoke immediately after [I can’t remember most of it]. I will start at the point where we started talking about music, which was the point where I took out my phone and started typing out our conversation.
You say that you like hip hop and rap music. I ask you who your favorite rapper is, you say it’s J Cole, but you weren’t much of a fan before 2014 Forest Hills Drive. You say you love every track on that album, but your favorite is Fire Squad. I’ve never met someone who has Fire Squad as their favorite. It’s a great song; don’t get me wrong [that rhymed!]. I just feel that most other songs on the album overshadow it. Maybe that’s just me. I take out my phone because I sense an interesting conversation.
You ask me who my favorite rapper is, and I’m unable to answer immediately. First of all, you haven’t asked what my favorite genre is, you just assumed it’s hip hop. You assumed right, but still. I could have been into Rebecca Black – whatever it is she does – and then I would have been offended. I say my favorite rapper is Killer Mike. I say this because I can’t make up my mind, so I choose one you probably don’t know so we won’t argue. I’m right. You don’t know him, save for that song he did with Outkast back in the day – The Whole World. I’m impressed. I notice for the first time that you have a ring on your middle finger. Is that symbolic?
I notice you keep looking at my phone a lot. I want to make a joke about the five straight seconds you’ve looked at it without talking, when you ask who I’m texting so hard. I tell you it’s a group and we’re arguing about some trivial matters. Now you know what I was really doing. How does that make you feel? I want you to ask me what group it is, but you don’t. Instead you say that I type weirdly because I don’t use my thumbs throughout. I chuckle because I don’t have a response to that. Now you’re staring at my hands and you’re affecting my typing. I feel self-conscious now. I have to stop typing to run my thumbs through the screen. “Your fingernails are long”, you say. I want to say “so are yours”, but I feel that’s rude. I say that it’s not all of them, just the ones on the thumbs and pinkies. Now you’re obsessing over the length of the fingernail of the pinky on my left hand. You ask why I keep them so long, and I pretend I didn’t hear you because I don’t feel like getting into that now.
It’s getting dark outside and this traffic isn’t moving as fast as I want it to. At least I have you next to me, although now there’s an awkward silence as I try to catch up in typing the conversation. I had no idea I could type so fast. We’re still on Haile Selassie Avenue, it’s still raining and the bus is less stuffy now because the door is open. I’ve finished catching up and I’m waiting for you to say something, because I’ve got nothing. I’m looking at a black Chrysler 300C a short distance away from this bus. I think to ask you about your dream car, but that sounds like a stupid question. I think my dream car is the Koenigsegg One:1. The main reason is because it seems like fun getting to teach people how to pronounce and spell Koenigsegg. I also enjoy typing One:1. And its doors open nicely.
“Nothing?” you ask. Oh, you’ve got me. Now I have to come up with something. I ask where you’re going; you say you’re going to Strathmore. I ask if you’re a student there, you say that you’re just going to see a friend, a student, who lives around there. I won’t ask who it is, because it might be someone I know and I can’t handle any more coincidences in my life right now. I tell you that I’m going to see someone a little farther from Strathmore.
You ask where I go to school. I tell you to guess, but it isn’t Strathmore. You get it right on the first try and I’m paranoid now. Were you sent after me? You start chanting our school slogans, mocking me. You’re fun. I let you have your moment as I catch up on this typing. When you’re done, you ask what I’m studying. I tell you to guess again. You make about five or six guesses that I think should have told what you thought of me. But I don’t blame you. I’m not wearing a suit. And I talk funny. You get frustrated that you can’t guess, so you start mentioning these really heavy courses sarcastically. Again, maybe I should be offended, but I don’t blame you. You mention the right one, I say that’s the one, and you don’t believe me. I still don’t blame you. I take my school ID out of my pocket and cover my name then show it to you. You ask how I’m in that class considering how laid back I seem. I say that not all of us are business-y. I tell you that two of my classmates have blogs that you should check out to believe, and I give you this one as one of the two. That’s how I hope you’ll come across this post. Clever, no? You laugh at the name of this blog, saying you’ve never heard anything that flared your curiosity so much. I pretend not to hear you because I don’t know what to say.
Now it’s really dark outside, the rain has reduced to a drizzle. It’s past 7:30 p.m. already. The bus’ lights are on, but only on the left side. The ones on the right aren’t on. You can see me, but I can’t see you so well. I hate when that happens. And I’m feeling self-conscious again. You ask me what it’s like in school, and I begin to try to answer as I look at you, but my eyes do not meet yours. You’re staring at my hat. Before I can say anything, you ask me what my hair looks like. I tell you to guess from what you saw on my ID. You say you didn’t see it so well because my thumb was in the way. I tell you to imagine it as anything you want. I think by now you know how hard it is to get me to take my hat off. I tell you that you’ll see my hair in a few months. It was only after I said that that I realized how optimistic I sounded; that we’re still going to be in touch months from now. You smiled for about a second before you went back to a blank expression.
“Your eyes are red”, you say. You ask if I’m high. I chuckle. You ask if I smoke weed. I chuckle again. I don’t usually answer those questions when I have the ability to dodge. I say that I’ve not slept in a while. You ask how long I’ve been awake, and I chuckle yet again. That’s why my eyes were closed in the beginning. They hurt so badly, and they’re sensitive to everything when I don’t sleep. Now you know. I don’t know if you’ll be okay with me requesting that you talk to me with my eyes closed, so I won’t ask.
There’s something in your handbag that’s hurting my left thigh very badly. What is that? Something with a sharp corner, like one of those Windows Mobile devices. It’s harder than any book I’ve ever come across. I can’t move away because the leg room in this particular seat is not for me. I’ll take it. I’ll take the pain.
At least the traffic is moving now. 8 p.m. Suddenly, my mind is overrun with thoughts of all the things I want to say to you, ask you. I reckon you thought the same thing when you saw the post office through the window. You say you wish there was more time for us to get to know each other. I say you’d rather not get to know me. You laugh nervously. You bring up my hair again, getting back to my earlier unconscious hope that we’d keep in touch after this. You say that you’d like to see me when I finally decide to get rid of my preference for constant hat-wearing. You ask for my number so we can keep in touch and maybe I’d text you a photo of me when the day comes, maybe even a sneak peek before then. I smile because your tactics are admirable. I want to promise to use that line myself in life, but I don’t know how you would take that. I give you my number and you write it in a tiny notebook from your purse. I still don’t know what it is in your purse that was digging into my thigh. I want to ask for your number, but I’m a fool who asks your age instead due to certain incidences in the past. You’re 21. I feel embarrassed. You laugh and say it’s okay. I tell you my age and you say you’d already figured it from my school ID. I still can’t shake the bad feeling that came with me asking your age.
We reach the bus stop with the bridge where you’re supposed to get off. Before I ask you for your number, you’re already up, purse and large loaded paper bag in hand, ready to leave. You lean in and say you think I’m perfect, then make your hurried leave, leaving me confused with your timing and choice of words. I save the conversation to drafts and check my texts, feeling terrible for lying about my name because I didn’t feel like explaining it at the time.
I’ll post this on Wednesday, almost a week after we met (it took me a while to decipher what I’d typed out on my phone), and hope that you’ll come across it. I think you should know about just how much I held back, how much I lied, because I was drowsy. I can’t blame you if you’re indignant. It’s just the way I am. The only way I’ll not feel like a completely horrible person is if you planned the whole thing from the start, in which case, well played.

***

Postscript: Dear Mr. Government, that post above has a word count of over 2,000, excluding the warning at the beginning. Isn’t it just amazing that traffic jams have gotten so bad I can write about a conversation with a total stranger on a bus and have over 2,000 words after I’ve heavily edited out tons of detail including the introduction?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I got to meet the girl. That was fun. However, if she doesn’t text me soon, it’ll be a case of me spending hours stuck in traffic without much value being added to my life. Wasting my precious time, after fifty years of independence.
I’m serious. If the girl texts me, then we’ll all be happy and I’ll continue paying my taxes. If she doesn’t, I’m holding the (county and/or national) government(s) responsible. You’ll have to make it up to me or I’ll come at you with the force of a thousand political activists.
No word on whether or not I’ll keep paying my taxes.

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43 thoughts on “To the Girl Seated Next To Me

  1. Good job KJ. i just like how you give intricate details of your thoughts. The angel(not the devil) is in the details.

    Like

  2. I can testify of several things up there. eg, yes you type really weirdly. I don’t understand how you use your fingers.
    And the chuckle…esp when you are evading a question….

    You mean you’ve not taken off the hat….yet?

    Like

    • that was you? Oh my…I’m so sorry I kept flicking jellybeans at you the whole time. It’s just that I get nervous whenever people stare at me furiously. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry

      Like

  3. It’s interesting who you’ll meet on a simple bus ride, let alone the story that lays behind it. It’s always the people who aren’t looking for you that ends up finding you. I hope she has gotten in touch with you, it would make an interesting conversation in the future about how you two met. Great story my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

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