I get out of the car, walk all the way to the back, there’s a bus that will take me where I want to go…
I climbed onto the bus, it was full of people. It didn’t feel right because it never does amid so many strange faces. It looked empty but it was occupied in more than one way. Kids were sleeping where you’re supposed to be sitting. So I walked to the back of the bus. I like that space. It’s bumpiness makes me jump in the air and make my head bobble. I found an empty seat. I clutched onto my laptop bag. I never keep it where the luggage is supposed to be kept. I usually take the strap off my shoulder but I saw a man staring at me, so I didn’t. I’ve been extra protective ever since I got mugged—although harmlessly but stupidly — to lose my phone for the second time. Although I didn’t have a phone with me this time around, I wouldn’t have cared even if I had. I don’t care much about them these days. But this was my laptop — a laptop that had my code — my uncommitted code.
While the stranger-blues were going away as I became familiar with the faces around, I could feel that man staring at me. He had his leg placed against the backside of the seat in front of him. Whenever my mind tries to engage in the judging behavior, I always try to put myself in other people’s shoes. I would have put myself in the man’s shoes but he wasn’t wearing any. His feet were scruffy, covered with little crumbs of white powder. I guessed it was chalk. The conductor came; “Surat”, I said. “124”, he handed me a ticket. I asked if the bus was an express one, he said, “Jhadeshwar, Ankleshwar”, “So express!”, I thought. I took out my wallet to pay him, the man was still staring at me. I paid 150 to the conductor; just as he was searching for the change to hand back to me, I saw the man shuffle a little and I made eye contact with him for the first time.
How shamelessly he was staring at my wallet, how rude of him!
A purple note of 2000 rupee had peeked out a little when I took the money out. I collected the change and quickly put the money back in. I also put the wallet back in my back pocket. The man relaxed a little, his scruffy white leg unmoved. A few minutes went by, I suddenly wanted to take my kindle out but I refrained, I didn’t want the stares back. I tried to look at him to check if he was still staring. And I saw him holding his own wallet in both of his palms. And I said to myself, “How weird! Nobody holds a wallet like that unless it’s heavy!” And it was heavy! He took at least 30 coins out of it, shuffled them a little, they made the sweet sound that money makes like the one from the Pink Floyd song called Money. I wanted to listen to that song right then but I couldn’t. I suddenly missed my stolen phone. He started counting them, sending a coin from one palm to the other. I counted in my head too — 30 coins, 60 rupee, 0.93$, 0.02 gm of Gold. And I wondered what kind of a business this man might be in — probably in the business of selling tiny pouches of drinkable water. Satisfied, he put it all back and put the wallet back in his back pocket just like I had. The conductor voiced from a few seats away, “Karjan”. The man got up and to my surprise, I noticed that he was just a boy — a roughed up one, he woke up the girl next to him who looked like his little sister, got down the bus probably dreaming about having his own 2000 rupee note some day.
I pause my mind for a moment, take out my glasses without the glass and say “Repo Mantiff” — a time machine springs in front of me, only I can see it through my glasses without the glass. For those who haven’t seen one, it looks like a purple-black wormhole. I trace my steps back and return to the present saying, “Pero Namfitt”.
The bus starts to move, I take the strap off my shoulder, a smile starts to form on my face as I realize, “How shamelessly was I staring at his wallet, how rude of me!”
Everybody likes their money!