by Martha Williams
I sneak to the bus stop which looks derelict on a dead afternoon, but sparkles with pink teardrops at dawn. I bustle to avoid being seen and to shake off the cold – sweeping squashed chips, flat cigarette butts and muddy receipts into my carrier bag. Yesterday, the Co-op girl glared when I asked for that bag. An hour later she dropped her gum here. I see it.
I whip out my spray: my morning yoga, stretch and swipe. A jet of foam on the struts carries last night’s dog piss into the gutter. Then the glass; squirt, wipe and polish until the sunrise shines back at me. I pause to breathe synthetic pine.
I use gloves. The flip-down seats clamp myriad arses. I’m not squeamish but I see the pock-pitted men drink and leer in here. Echoing grunts in the dark, broken glass in pools. Gloves.
Today, it’s almost as clean as when I left it yesterday. Sunday; quiet day. Today will be busy. I straighten and survey my work. My last job is my least favourite. The gloves impart a rubbery ineptitude and I have to remove one and use the outer edge of my thumbnail to prise the hardened gum from the pavement. Cells of the Co-op girl, in my hand. I gag. It pings as it ricochets into the bin.
I am done.
As I sigh into my window chair, I smell of shampoo, fresh linen and coffee. I hug my mug and look for my friend as the bus draws up. She’s there. Against the flow of hurrying schoolchildren and young suits, she steps off the bus. Her coat is buttoned, her shoes gleam. Her hair is drawn back into a clip which accentuates her cheekbones. With the pernickety finesse of an ageing cat, she waits for the bus to go, then circles the bus stop before pressing down one of the seats with a cautious finger. Only when she is sure it is clean will she sit. From here, she can watch the park, feed the sparrows, and smile with reminiscent joy at fat toddlers stumbling over flower beds. She never does anything but sit and smile before graciously mounting the ten past ten bus. Today, I turn away even as it stops, and neither of us watches the other leave.
Martha Williams lives and writes in the UK. She hugs her figments here.