Wounded

The bus jostles again and my head clunks against the window. I jerk up, awake, awake, and look around in a dazed panic. Outside, a McDonald’s swoops by and an inflatable gorilla tries to wave us in to consider the new Chevy line. I almost worry whether I’ve missed the stop, but I only could have been asleep for a mile.

There’s an old lady across the aisle staring straight ahead, gripping the arm of her grandson as if any leniency in her hold and he would bobble away like a helium balloon. He’s asleep, his neck cricked over onto his shoulder. In the seat ahead of them is a girl with a sloppily painted smile interrogating the pages of magazine, each fingered leaf squeaking as if just as delighted to continue.

I consider their faces, lingering on the grandmother’s face like folded marble and the girl’s chipmunk-round jaw. They look so real I want to reach out and touch them. I wish I could paint their reality as easily as they live it.

My reflection in the window looks deteriorated. Clumps of melted snow thrown from the roof slide across the canvas, leaving wavering water streaks in their trails so it looks like the girl in the window is crying snowflakes. Poor thing. She looks so cold.

I stand for the stop.

The new snow is wet and my steps sparkle with a sheen of water. I take the side roundabout, marching through drifts that penetrate the seal at my hips and dribble wet fingers down to my feet.

It still looks like a wound. It isn’t red from the burn anymore, but the police tape streaming from its innards remind me of the pus in a mistreated infection. There are figures circling and pacing out the scene, who I duck away from whenever they glance around at the dampened grass.

I imagine them turning the building’s remains over without a hope. I imagine the cry of discovery. I think of the form they extricate from the rubble. Burnt toothpicks. Like burnt toothpicks all strung up with electrical tape and staining the snow black.

I pinch my eyes shut and breathe, bringing myself to reality again.

There’s a big hole in the southern end – where the bomb went off, I guess. The garage, right? Then maybe it was delivered. He must have parked it right under their window.

A crack echoes over the snow and a beam collapses under its white weight.

It looks a lot like the last one. The last building to explode, I mean. But maybe it’s a good thing the last two buildings exploded are alike: two exploded by two different people would be bad for everyone.

I want to linger. I want to ask the scene workers who they found.  I want to know if they were smiling when they found them. I couldn’t bear to think they were scared to death.

But, I return the way I came, catching my footfalls in my old steps for fun.

I have to run to catch the bus.

The End

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