Here comes the bus at last.

It eases to a stop, makes that sound as if it, too, is just plain exhausted and can’t go on another foot.

The door folds back.

I wait, but no one gets off.

I climb the stairs, show the driver my pass, take the blast of air conditioning like a hard slap across the face, and locate a seat somewhere in the middle of this tube of human futility.

Through the window, I look at the man still sitting there inside the bus shelter, more like a pile of a man, sound asleep.

I think, you know, he doesn’t really look too unhappy.

No unhappier than the rest of us if you disregard the filthy, disintegrating, mite-infested rags he’s wearing, the unwashed flesh, the matted hair and beard, the pile of sad belongings.

He has some issues, sure.

He didn’t get his dollar, but he got some stuff off his chest.

He found an audience.

Isn’t that what we all really want?

What we all need?

Isn’t that what love is about, why we need it so much?

Isn’t it about finding an audience for our shitshow?

Anyway, he looks like he’s doing okay, all things considered.

I don’t have to feel so bad for him now.

Nah, he’ll be alright.

It’s a load off my mind.

A crumb off my mind.

That’s what I tell myself.

That’s what it makes me feel better to tell myself.

Still, if I break this five today, I vow to myself that I’ll squirrel away a dollar to give him if I see him again.

I hope I never see him again.

Suddenly, I remember TT.

Where was he during all this?

He must have run off, dammit.

That’s what happens when I forget about him.

He disappears.

In order to keep an invisible, telepathic support cat by your side, you have to keep it in mind all the time.

It can be a burden, just like owning any pet.

It’s a responsibility.

TT, I whisper, pssst, pssst, TT.

He doesn’t respond.

He should, if my theory is correct, since I’m thinking about him now, come weaving down the bus aisle towards me, tail up, to rub against my legs.

He should emerge from under one of the seats or jump down from the overhead racks.


No sign of him.

But who can know with cats?

They never follow the rules, even imaginary cats that you yourself have dreamed up.

They follow their own agendas.

They operate contra to your expectations.

That’s what makes them real.

That’s what reality is, when you come right down to it.

Stuff that happens when you’re expecting something else to happen.

That’s the proof that you’re living in the real world and not just hallucinating.

I’m wrong about reality, therefore I am.

I look under the seats across the aisle, into the overhead luggage rack: nothing, no sign of my big blue invisible cat.


I guess he’ll come back when he’s good and ready.

I just have to keep my mind prepared for him, like a soft, fluffy, tartan cat bed.

I lean back, close my eyes, open them again.

Either they’ve been there all along or they somehow boarded the bus in the ten seconds that I had my eyes closed.

It’s a pair of women of an indeterminate age, old, they could be mother and daughter or they could be two lovers.

One is nearly bald, her thin, vulnerable, naked skull irregularly covered by patches of fine hair, soft and colorless, as bird down on a baby bird.

What’s hatching—you don’t want to know but can’t help but wonder—in that terrible egg?

I shudder.

It’s freezing in here, like a meat locker.

The other old woman is sturdier, which is a good thing, because she’s basically supporting the other, who is so frail she looks like she might collapse at any moment.

Oh Christ, I’m thinking, don’t let her collapse in here.

Don’t let her vomit now.

They are sitting there bouncing around on the uncomfortable plastic bus seat, both of them like eggs.

The frail bald one lays her head on her friend/wife/lover/sister/mother’s shoulder.

She’s clutching a long-eared floppy white rabbit that looks pretty dirty.

Like it’s been through a lot.

Like it’s been through whatever she’s been through but couldn’t save her from it, so just made the conscious choice to suffer along with her.

They couldn’t save each other from it, whatever it is.

That must be the frail woman’s support animal.

She buries her face into its patchy chenille fur.

I can see that she’s softly, soundlessly crying.

Why is there so much damn sadness in the world?

Was it really necessary?

Why are people reduced to such a state?

Couldn’t things have been better organized?

I mean, if there really was somebody or something in charge, some organizing principle to it all, couldn’t they/it have done a better job than this?

If God had been at the top of his game, if nature really were so amazing, we would experience the process of death as the slow unfolding of the best orgasm ever, not the way people do, sick and miserable and full of abject lonely terror, clutching a filthy stuffed animal.

This is why I don’t ordinarily leave the house in the morning.

You can call it agoraphobia if you like.

I call it self-preservation.

I call it looking on the bright side.

I don’t want to see things like this.

I don’t want to see anything.

I try not to look, not to perv these people’s personal hell, but it’s hard to turn away because honestly it’s morbidly fascinating, because you can’t help but think that this is what is waiting for you, too, somewhere down the road and its just so horrible to contemplate that you can’t tear your eyes away from the chilling spectacle of it.

Suicide, you think.

This is a good reason to off yourself.

Now. Here.

Before it comes to that. Then.

The bus sighs to another creaking, lurching stop and the two women struggle to their feet.

It’s like that Station of the Cross where someone helps Jesus back up to his feet as he marches towards Golgotha with the cross on his shoulder.

And you’re thinking, why?

Why not let him just lie there?

Call the fucking Roman Centurions over HERE if they’re so hot and heavy to nail him to the cross.

Is it really necessary that he drag his death all the way up the hill?

What the hell kind of sadism is involved in that sort of thinking?

For Christ’s sake, can’t you just crucify him where he fell the first two times?

This is religious thinking, I guess.

This is like the religious right, I think.

This is like the do-gooders who won’t give morphine to terminal cancer patients because they might get hooked and become drug addicts.

This is absurdity squared, which is one thing humans are really, really good at.

Pain is good, pain is holy, pain shows you’re not escaping anything, but living it all out according to God’s Most Dreadful Plan.

More pain is more gain.

More pain is more grace.

More redemption.

Pain is guilt leaving the body.

It’s paying back original sin.

I don’t want to live in a world where they won’t just crucify you where you fell.

Fuck you.

Kill me.

Kill me right here.

The two women make their way up the bus aisle like they’re leaning into a storm, the frail one clutching her rabbit and still quietly crying.

I can see her soft rounded shoulders shaking.

Crying silently like she hasn’t even got the voice left to cry.

Like they burned even that out of her with their toxic chemicals.

I want to put my eyes somewhere else, anywhere else.

I want to take them out of my head and stick them in my Hello Kitty change purse for a while.

I want to give them to a needy blind man.

Here, you take them and see this shit if you want, I’ve seen enough!

But I watch them, watch them like I’m punishing myself, every brutal last painstaking step of their way towards the motherfucking door.

I’m waiting for someone to complain that they’re taking too long, to put some pep in their step, that they’re holding everyone up.

I’m waiting for someone to lose patience because they’ve got to go to work, meet a friend for coffee, see their stockbroker, get to a dental appointment, whatever.

I’m waiting for the inevitable impatient outburst like a fist in my gut as the two women aren’t even halfway to the door yet.

If someone dares to complain, I swear I’ll go off on them.

I won’t be able to hold back.

I’ll get right in their face and give them what-for.

Even that scary-looking, wired white dude all in denim with the long skanky hair, goatee, and skinny face.

Even that big fat nasty-looking black woman with the violent eyeshadow.

I’ll go off on them, on anyone, who says a single goddamn word.

Go ahead, I dare you, double-dare you.

One foot.

The other foot.

One foot.

The other foot.

One foot.

The other foot.

Who am I kidding?

If anyone complains, I’ll most likely just sit here, sink back, and try to make myself even more invisible than I usually do.

I’ll pretend I don’t hear it.

I’ll look engrossed in something I’m pretending I see on my smartphone.

I’ll pretend I’m living in another dimension.

I AM living in another dimension, that’s what I’ll tell myself.

I’m not a human being, or I’m the only human being.

It’s the same thing, really.

I just know that I have nothing in common with these creatures around me.

It’s not my responsibility to bring these creatures, whatever they are, to heel.

To teach them a lesson on humanity.

Or transcending humanity if humanity is what it sadly seems to be.

Fuck them.

They’re all doomed anyway.

Every last one of them.

Doomed to old age.

Doom to disease.

Doomed to death.

Their planet is heating up.

The oceans are rising.

The polar bears are on the move, but even they don’t know where to go.

There’s nowhere left to run to.

It’s all over for the Earth.

Everyone knows it but the Earthlings.

I’m just an observer here.

I’m just passing through.

I’m waiting to be called home to the mothership.


Let’s face it, I’m not an extraterrestrial.

I’m just a coward.

I always have been and I always will be.

I’m the kind who’d have turned away while Jews were being dragged off to the trains, kicking and screaming and crying, shipped off to the concentration camps.

If these two women were Jews being taken to Auschwitz instead of a cancer patient and her caretaker going to the medical center, I still wouldn’t say a word.

Just like I don’t say a word now.

How could such atrocities happen, people always ask, thinking it unthinkable that good people remain silent, do nothing.

I’m how it happens.

Most people are how it happens.

People suck.

The frail woman clutching her bunny doesn’t look down at her feet as she shuffles forward.

She looks upward at the bus ceiling.

God only knows what she’s seeing up there.

But I don’t think it’s God looking down.

But what do I know?

Her friend/wife/mother/lover looks at her feet for her.

This grim, depressing horror movie is love, I think.

Someone else looking at your feet for you because you can’t.

Watching your step because you can’t anymore.

They’re three-quarters of the way to the door by now and no one has said a word.

For once, I’m impressed by the humanity of my fellow human beings.

For once, not an asshole in the lot.

Probably means there’s someone on the bus with a bomb strapped to their chest ready to detonate it and send us all into the waiting arms of Allah.

I let my eyes skip around the bus for possible terrorist types.

We all look like possible terrorists.

Just don’t let anyone fuck it up now, please, they’re almost to the stairs and out the door.

Just everyone keep cool for another few feet and they’ll be off the bus and out of our lives forever.

We can do it.

We can hold it together for another minute, minute and a half, tops.

It takes the pair forever to descend the stairs.

Literally forever.

I pass through several lifetimes.

I die and I’m reborn and die and am reborn and goddammit, I’m still a human being.

Come on, humanity, I pray under my breath. We can do it.

The bus door wrenches to a close and the bus wheezes as it climbs back to its feet, relieved of the weight of at least that much human tragedy.

The woman are safely deposited on the sidewalk where they can be set upon by ravenous wolves.

It’s no longer our responsibility any more what happens to them.

We got them safely to where they wanted to go.

We can all breathe a big sigh of relief.

We did it!

For the first time I can remember, I’m not disappointed in my fellow man.

Everyone has been incredibly patient, inhumanly human.

Maybe there’s hope for us, after all.


Just kidding.

Come, come o’ mighty death comet, come and take us all out once and for all.

All the same, I feel like standing up and giving the human beings a standing ovation for once.

I’m going to do it.

I really am.

No I’m not.

I’m just going to sit here, like everybody else.

The moment passes.

Like all moments, good and bad, pass.

It’s too late now.

No one would have understood anyway.

I would have looked like I was just another crazy.

I’m not.

I don’t have the guts to be crazy.

I’m just another coward.


Garden variety.