Too Many Voices

“Hi,” I say. Greeting the driver–first thing to do. I have to be friendly. Picking a seat: this is the hard part. Gotta chose one where I can see the whole bus. This one, sideways. Perfect. Fred sits down next to me. His face isn’t nice. He screams at me.
“Stop being so stupid!”
“Shut up, Fred. I don’t want to talk to you right now.” I say. Calm. He keeps yelling. “Shut up!” I scream back. That’ll teach him. Fred slinks down the aisle to the back of the bus.
I close my eyes. Hearing the rumble-rumble of the wheels against the pavement. It feels nice. Quiet and loud all at the same time. Nice.
I hear that stupid voice again. “They’re talking about you,” Fred calls from the back. “The one right next to me. He’s on the phone with his girlfriend and they’re talking about you.”
“Hang up the phone, buddy!” I yell. The man looks angry. I’m angry too. He keeps talking. “I said hang up the phone. Stop talking about me!”
“You gotta be quiet,” calls the driver from behind the wheel. “Be polite or I’m gonna havta kick you out.”
“I was,” I explain. “But they were talking about me!”
“Just be nice and shut up,” She says.
“Make them stop talking about me!” She doesn’t respond. Good. I stretch out my hand. It looks funny in the sunlight, always moving through shadows and bright patches with the bus. My fingers look short. Funny. A man gets on at the next stop. He’s wearing a huge parka and a Mao hat. He sits across from me.
“Nice hat,” I say. “Where’d you get that hat?”
“New York,” he replies. He looks down again.
“Take off the hat! What’s under there?” The guy doesn’t move. “Take off your hat!” I stand up and take a step towards him. He tips his hat for a second, and I can see the matted curls beneath it. He replaces the hat. “Take it off! Be polite!”
You be polite now. I wasn’t kidding about you having to get off,” The mean lady says again.
“Why you wearing a coat?” I ask the man.
“Because I want to.”
“It’s f***ing 98 degrees out. Why are you wearing a coat?”
“I can wear a f***ing coat if I f***ing want to,” He says. He stands up, and the doors whoosh closed behind him. The bus lady’s talking to me now. I don’t wanna hear her anymore. Her voice is annoying. Fred’s yelling at me too, now. I’m sorry I ever said hi to her. Stupid lady. “Shut up, Fred!” I call. He keeps talking. I don’t want to deal with him.
“I don’t want to deal with you!”
“I don’t want to deal with you,” says the bus driver. God, she’s so stupid. I wasn’t even talking to her. Can’t she see that I was talking to someone else? She’s so rude.
“Maybe you should be nice yourself before you ask me,” I say. I’m getting more angry. The bus pulls to the side, and a girl with purple headphones walks out. Soon, I’m back on my way home, listening to the rumble-rumble of the bus, and f***ing Fred, and the bus driver lady, and the man with the Mao hat. I wish everybody would just shut up.


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