Sometimes it seems I've moved to a whole new country. A planet of lost souls, people hanging on to the edge of the city with blackened fingernails.
A woman toddles toward me with a terrifying goggle-smile. Her hair is blond and curly. She was cute, once. She might have been pretty. The smile now is pulled painfully over the front of her face. "Helloooo!" she says as I pass. "Helloooo!" exactly the same overbright tone to the person behind me. "Helloooo!"
Inside a restaurant, in a nearly empty dining room, a woman and her children raise their arms above their heads and spin. The woman pauses, and her eyes meet mine. She shrugs, raising her arms again.
A man in a wheelchair speaks a language that doesn't exist on earth.
On the bus, I'm taken in by the Dianetics ad. Indisputably the most read book on the human mind ever written, it says. Indisputably? I think. It seems an outlandish claim. A young man is sitting next to me. He looks like any of a thousand young men in the city. Skinny jeans, expensive backpack. Just before his stop he stands and reaches over the head of the woman across the aisle. He pulls at the ad, diligently. Sorry, he mumbles, as it doesn't give as easily as he expected. Finally he tears it down the middle, crumpling half in his fist before hopping off the bus.
Guess he doesn't like Scientology, a man at the back of the bus says.
The erupting volcano remains.
At night I dream of the blond woman's rictus, her teeth showing in a Joker grin. Helloooo? she asks my sleeping self. Hello, I want to say. Hello. I see you.