I’m standing at the bus stop envisioning my head flickering on and off with that electric fizz in between, and people are looking at me. Some manic guy with OCD is trying to stop his eye visibly twitching because he wants to change the broken light bulb! I’m stood here flickering on and off like an occasional beacon of light, but the light only shines to show you the monsters in the dark. If someone were to ask if they could paint a representation of me, I’d ask them to paint a human body with a light bulb head. It would have a gruesome-looking fish inside bearing sharp teeth, and it would be electrocuted every time the bulb flickers on and then disappears just as suddenly, the last thing you’d see would be its eyes bulging from the electricity.
“Gilly,” An unfamiliar voice interrupts my imagination; I turn my flickering head towards her with a zig-zag mouth and crosses for eyes.
“Are you stunted or somethin’?”
I imagine her breath smells awful with its mixture of stale cigarettes and minty chewing gum.
“I’m talkin’ to you!” She screeches waving her hand to grab my attention. “Earth to Gilly!” She giggles and sits back down on the bench stretching her legs out, “Do you even talk?” She scowls at the pavement in puzzlement; hands dug deep in her pockets. “Oh,” her body becomes animated with new insight, “Are you deaf?” She smiles proudly at herself.
An old man with a walking stick joins her; she gestures towards me with her thumb and says, “I think he’s deaf.”
“Have you asked him if he is?” The old man says in a grainy voice, a smoker’s chuckle following.
“He don’t talk.”
“Maybe he has headphones in.”
She leans forwards on the bench and looks at him, shakes her head, “Can you see any damn headphones, Grandpa?”
“I dunno,” his coat makes a shuffling sound as he shrugs his shoulders, “They’re tricky these days with all this technology.” He nods towards me, “Especially these youngsters.”
She opens her mouth wide with chewing gum squashed on her tongue, eyebrows raised, “He’s about the same age as me I reckon.”
“A bleeding baby then!” Her grandpa replies with another hearty chuckle, “Ya bleeding babies you two!”
She rolls her eyes and sits back, her back resting against the glass pane and folds her arms, her denim jacket tightening at the elbows and rolling up a little at the wrist. She has a small tattoo on her wrist that I can’t quite make out.
“How do you two know each other?” her grandpa asks, “Are you two an item?” He winks and chuckles again.
“Grandpa!” She spits, “I don’t know him,” she chews her gum loudly, “He’s just always at the bus stop.”
“What are we talking about him for, then?”
“I’ve been trying to get him to talk to me.”
“But he’s deaf.”
“No, Grandpa. I said I think he’s deaf; I don’t know if he is!”
Her grandpa waves his hand nonchalantly, “Ah,” he shakes his head and tuts, “Leave him be. He don’t need you mithering ‘im.”
They fall silent for a few moments then I hear the rustle of a bag of sweets, and he offers his granddaughter one.
“Thanks,” She takes the chewing gum from her mouth, holding it in between her finger and thumb. She pops the sweet in her gob, and I wonder how it must taste after that minty fresh gum contradicting the cigarette taste. I hear rustling get closer to me, just at my shoulder, the old man holds the bag out towards me. I look at the broken zipper on his coat and turn to look out the glass.
“I don’t think he wants one.” I hear him say as he shuffles back to the bench.
“Fucking rude.” She screeches.
“Leave him alone, Jas”
“Well,” I hear her sigh, “Still.” She continues, “Just so rude.” She whispers.
Her grandpa leans in close to her ear and whispers something. She sighs with an air of resignation, and then their bus arrives.
The old man waves at me through a window on the bus. A submarine comes to mind, his wrinkled face looking through the circle window waving at me in that illusion of safety inside all that metal. I find that I’m waving back, looking at the old man’s lips. People’s mouths are windows to the soul for me; I shall never cross the threshold of eye contact.
Another woman takes her place on the bench, she stares straight ahead through everyone passing by, a big smile on her face and occasionally mouths something at someone only she can see. I’ve seen her around before; I saw her on the psych ward once. I don’t feel sorry for her, she’s in her own world, and she’s comfortable in it. People say she’s ill, I say that may be so, but she seems better off than everyone else I see.
I’m wearing a suit with a red noose (a tie) contrasting against my whiter than white shirt. I even envision black socks in shiny black shoes. My bulb flickers on and off, the gruesome fish inside shimmering into vision every time the light comes on,
“Earth to Gilly!” Her voice echoes in my head, I’ve heard that voice before. “Earth to Gilly!” Her face is a blur in front of me; I blink hard and open my eyes again. Sam stands in front of me, “Ground control to Major Gilly!” She grins.
“Hey, Sam.” I finally manage.
“Where were you just now?” she chuckles
“Here,” I say dryly.
She rolls her eyes, “you know what I mean.”
I take a peek at the spreadsheet glowing in front of me, inviting me to boredom. She puts a finger to her lips feigning surprise, “I know! Have you got a girl on the mind, Gilly?” She winks.
I look at the spreadsheet before me, inwardly sigh at the grotesque task of looking through all the tickets sales this month and editing any stupid fucking errors. Kill me. Shoot me now.
This artificial sun glowing in my face, this nothingness disguised as something.
“Jeeze you are really out of it today! Are you okay?”
Her words are bubbles popping into nothing, just white noise inside my head. She’s looking at me through the window of the submarine and we departed from each other’s lives years ago, she just doesn’t know it yet.