February, at a bus stop

I’m tired enough to be rude. I squeeze in. She doesn’t move. I can just about fit on the bench. Her leg is resting against mine. It’s warm, almost hot. Warmth spreads to my right frozen thigh. The woman smells unwashed and sickly sweet, with an undertone of something spicy. Like incense in new age-stores, but it’s probably pot.

Lindex, Synsam, Konsum, wink the neon signs from the back of the shopping centre across the street. On top of the building sits a large H, for the municipality’s name. The crossbar of the H is a heart, blinking on and off. Next to me is the woman’s breaths, small damp puffs against the side of my face. She’s watching me. I read Lindex, Synsam, Konsum, waiting for her to turn away again. She keeps breathing on my cheek. I read backwards – musnoK, masnyS, xedniL. She’s breathing with her mouth open. The bus isn’t on time. Lindex, Synsam, Konsum. The heart blinks on and off. I turn my head.

She comes back in my dreams. I sit on the bench by the bus stop with her leg against mine, the warmth intimate, and she’s breathing on my cheek with her mouth open. I read the signs on the shopping centre in dream fashion: Lindex, Synaps, Korfu, waiting for her to stop watching me, but then I turn my head.

Maybe she wasn’t expecting me to look back at her. She might be unprepared. Before her face slides back into place again there is something else peeking out between the lank strands. Then an anonymous human face meets my gaze and turns away. I turn away, too. I read Lindex, Synsam, Konsum. The warmth leaves my leg. The bus comes. She is gone.

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