#14 Bus – Bangkok

Rush hour
We wait at the end of
the alley
#14 bus
Across the street 
a group of locals’ hangout on
a doorstep 
along with Pepsi 
the thick-eyebrowed dog
I wonder if his brows are dyed?
A broad-shouldered adorably cute 
Ladyboy/Transformed Goddess 
with a hot pink hair clip
is teased by friends for looking at my husband
she runs away covering her face
The bus finally arrives 
after a long dusty wait in
back to back traffic 
honks honks honks
buzzing scooters and cars
rushing rushing rushing rushing rushing
jackhammers crushing sidewalks
We board the red + yellow painted bus
seafoam lace curtains 
All seats are filled with Thai commuters
and every yellow loop hanging has a hand 
We are welcomed by 
a scurrying surgical masked bus tenant
with a red flashlight 
He takes our tolls
as we find a spot by the open door 
both grabbing the floor-to-ceiling metal bar
Every so often 
the bus tenant comes by
leans out the door to catch a breath of
(not so fresh) fresh air
never taking off his mask
Bob grabs the metal bar above my head
my skull seems to fit perfectly under his
liquid rock sweaty armpit
The man next to me also grabs the same bar
With each stop 
a few more people come aboard 
Soon the entire bus is filled with 
heads + hands + elbows + knees
We are so tightly crammed together that
I can smell the floral shampoo of
the woman in front of me
The man standing behind me
rests his briefcase 
on my butt shelf
Bob’s elbow presses down on my crown
Another man moves to take a woman’s place
leans in 
and presses up against the entire metal bar
I try to find a place for my hand
near his head—no
near his bum—no
near his back—no
I decide to hold onto Bob’s shirt
The man to my right moves in closer
So close
I can feel his cell phone vibrate
He answers 
and all eyes roll as he chats
He turns around towards the window
Then realizes he has room 
and steps forward
With an exhale
we all shift to the right
each finding our balance
and secure footing again
The bus finally stops at
Monument Circle
Everyone files out in a rush
I thank the bus tenant with a nod
then step out onto hot pavement
and immediately lose Bob
in the crowded 
Friday Night Market 
at the Skytrain station

By KM Sharp