The bus to Novoarkhanhelsk from Uman was 40 minutes late. Most everyone came inside the station, where it was warm. There were dour faces behind the ticket windows, glaring lights, a couple in the corner, their limbs entwined. I was across from a woman with a delicate jawline and slightly crossed-eyes and I could think of nothing but her going down on me.
I had only slept a few hours the previous night and felt strange. I could feel my pulse. My eyes buzzed around the woman like a restless fly.
Someone mumbled something, and everyone rushed out the doors. I walked behind the woman. Her leather jacket clung tight to her torso and I wanted to ask her if she'd like help with her suitcase but I was too much of a coward.
The bus was waiting in the lot. There was a big crack on the left side of the windshield. The bus was already crammed with people and their was a crowd collected near the open door. The driver came out and started moving people's bags into the hold. He had an ironic smile that suggested his day had been long and absurd.
The woman in the leather jacket showed her receipt, climbed the steps, and vanished in the mass of people at the back of the bus. I stood with the crowd outside- I didn't have a ticket. I never buy tickets at the desk, I just pay the driver when I get on.
The driver got in his seat and we all filed in- I was one of the last. Everyone was standing, pressed up against eachother. I was pushed near the driver with a middle-aged woman. They were talking. I couldn't tell if they knew eachother, or if the driver just had a very familiar way of speaking.
It was very dark on the bus and it was hard to move my arms, but I managed to fish out the twenty hreven for the fare. Another passenger and I pushed our bills toward the driver, but he just smiled and waved our hands away. “It's dark. I don't even know that you are on this bus.”
We drove. I liked the quiet rumble of the driver's voice. It put me at ease to listen to it. I would understand snatches, but mostly it was sound. There was a bobble-head dog on the dashboard- its motion was calm and steady. These are bumpy roads, but the driver took them smooth.
I had my back to the door. All the passengers were just lumps and shadows until some light from outside would illuminate a piece of a face. I searched for the leather jacket woman but could not find her.
The driver's hand hung out the window with a cigarette. He just wore a thin shirt and kept the heat very high. I was hot inside my coat and sweater, but it was not unpleasant, with the soft tones of the voices and the people all quiet and close together. The glimpses of faces I saw seemed calm, unconcerned about what time they would get home. There were even some sleepy smiles. It was the kind of quiet that happens when you are tired with someone you love.
The woman asked the driver if she could set her purse up on the dashboard. The driver turned with a grin and said, of course not- the dashboard is for the dog. The woman shook her head, let out a long smoky sigh, and put her purse somewhere else. The dog bobbled away, unmolested, until the end of the route.