There was a guy on the bus ride home just now, he smelled pretty bad. He sat in the very back, a few seats away from me.
"Dumb bitch. Stay outta my way," he said, "stay outta my business motherfucker, dumbass bitch."
He wasn't talking to me.
He wasn't talking to anyone I could see.
I tried to watch him without making eye contact.
The woman sitting next to me got up and moved towards the front of the bus. Another woman sitting directly in front of him continued to talk on her phone. I accidentally made eye contact.
"Motherfucker, standing in the road," he peeled an orange with a knife. I didn't see the knife, I just saw the cut orange peels accumulating on the floor between his feet.
I imagined him attacking me.
I imagined holding my feet out in front of me to protect myself.
I imagined offering him an apricot from the bag on my lap.
I imagined saying, "it sounds like you are pretty upset."
The woman sitting in front of him moved to the front of the bus.
For a couple of blocks I was the only one in the back of the bus with him.
I thought about the invisibility of being homeless. The loneliness of mental illness. I don't know if he was either of those things.
I watched two more guys get on the bus, sit down, cover their noses, look around, make faces to each other. They looked at me. I looked at the ceiling and pretended I wasn't concerned that they would think it was me that smelled.
I imagined inviting the guy over to my house to shower.
I imagined washing his clothes, lending him a bathrobe in the meantime.
I imagined him waiting outside my door, for my own safety's sake.
I imagined him getting angry at me when I imagined explaining why I wanted him to wait outside.
I moved to the front of the bus.
In the end it wasn't the smell, or the concern that he had a knife, or worrying that he might attack me. It was those other two guys thinking it might be me that smelled bad. I wanted to walk by them, I wanted them to smell me as I walked by so they would know.