I had a curious inclination to read Hemingway again which I couldn’t put my finger on. Engrossed in The Old Man and The Sea I hardly noticed as she stood expectantly in front of me. There were plenty of other seats on the bus aside from the one directly next to me, but I obliged nonetheless, offering my apologies. She tucked herself neatly away in the back corner, out of sight.
She looked around surreptitiously as she drew a can of lager from her day sack, her shifting gaze defying anyone to comment. She opened it and didn’t even notice as the foam spilled onto the floor. As if her feat was accomplished she stared out of the window as if to place herself elsewhere. Her lips were parted in a way that made her seem on the edge of sleep.
Jolted from my brief visit to the Cuban sea back into reality by my arrival, I quickly hopped off the bus without giving the situation a backward glance.
She carried on until the final stop: The library.
She took a seat just in front of the sliding doors, her usual spectating position. Look at all these high and mighty types she thought to herself and look at the lots I’ve been drawn. She drew another can from her rucksack and relished the glances people tried not to give her.
Disgust? Annoyance? Pity?
All likely candidates, anything but empathy. As if anyone could know how it felt to have been put in the position, to be made this isolated. Lonely, however, she was not. How could she be lonely when she didn’t want anyone around.
She pictured the scenario whereby she tried to go into the library: Lager in hand before midday, mothers hushing their children and averting their eyes. Someone in charge would stop her.
Their rules. Their oppression. Their fault.
A young boy of around seven delighted in showing his mum the books he had chosen. And you really mean anyone can have anything they want? She lowered the can from her lips as his words rung in her ears. With a slight shake she realised he must obviously have been speaking about the library policies.
She’d made herself lonely she affirmed, but maybe she was not entirely alone.