I see her on the bus, now and then. She's a tall teenager with flawless skin and close-cropped hair. She doesn't look unfinished like most girls her age; she's already arrived at jaw-drop Beauty, but she doesn't know it or doesn't care.
"'Scuse me. 'Scuse me." She muscles her way toward the back of the bus, where her friends sit. It's crowded, and shoulders and bags and asses block her path. "'Scuse me." Her voice notches up, booming down the aisle. "I won't say it again!"
People skitter out of her way while a woman at the front of the bus rolls her eyes heavenward and hisses between her teeth.
The girl sits like a queen among her subjects.
I find a seat of my own, closer to the front than usual. I can't see the kids, but I can hear them, a miniature universe of drama at the back of the bus. A couple of voices ride up and over everything else.
"You put your foot on my foot!"
"So what? Get over it, nigga."
"You do not have the right to put your foot on my foot."
I take out my earphones to listen, catching the eye of a woman standing in the aisle. We're both smiling, loving every word, when the woman sitting to my right bursts out:
The woman to my left takes it up:
"I hate this bus!"
Woman to my right:
"They don't do anything about it! There's no security people here to...deal with them!"
Security? I look over at her. Is she serious?
Her mouth is drawn together into a sticky pink fist, her jowls quivering with indignation.
I almost reply, Jesus, they're teenagers and they're loud, get over it, but I see this woman is more than angry. She's terrified. They're young and loud and a thousand times stronger than her. They can't imagine the day they'll be as old as her.
Someday, she will slip quietly out of the world, and they will go on being loud and crude and young - she can see it all, mascara clumped on her lower lashes, hands gripping her purse, tendons pulled taut - she can see them dancing on her grave.