Blain sprawled across the back five seats of the downtown bus, his forehead pressed hard against the back window. His eyes were locked against the glass so that even his peripheral vision was nothing but the nighttime streets and alleys passing by. He felt like he was the wind passing through the outskirts of town, past old liquor stores, past rundown tenements, old men walking dogs that wouldn’t shut up about needing to piss at midnight.
He felt like an ethereal, invisible, spirit passing through the lives of people and souls of places as he drifted along, hovering six feet above the ground like a ghost. He felt so strangely abstracted, trapped inside a quietly humming iron box with wheels, seperated from the outside world by nothing by a thin sheet of cold glass. He Caught figments and glimpses of places, and fleeting moments of people’s lives. He felt an odd sort of connection with all of it as it passed by, a connection that he knew was only felt one way. Only felt by him. And the feeling always instigate a wonderful sort of solitude. He always loved the feeling, he was a passing ghost sharing in fragments of others’ lives he never knew and likely never will know, and no one ever knew he was ever around to witness any of it. As though he was seeing things he was never supposed to see, in a place he never really was.
He felt like he was cheating god, cheating the universe, and cheating on his own life somehow. For an ever so brief moment he didn’t exist in this world, but was nothing but eyes and sight. He passed by things as they occurred and became a disembodied ghostly viewer, seeing it all and sharing in whatever it was he caught glimpses of. And then just as fast as he showed up and caught that glimpse, as the bus would pull away, he would get swept away and carried off. He was like the wind.
He passed college girls in dresses completely unsuitable for a night this cold, and in shoes far too high above the ground to be any good for walking. He passed a homeless man pushing a cart piled high with metal cans. He caught glimpses of light shining through translucent bedroom curtains. He caught sight of a bored looking young man behind the counter of a gas station register. He passed a group of young men smoking on a doorstep, the site made him subconsciously reach for his own pack in his back pocket.
Blain wondered if the vibrations of this bus window driving into his head would be the eventual cause of some kind of horrible brain disease. It seemed to him just about everything caused some kind of horrible ailment these days. Shit, even the sun causes cancer. He had no doubt in his mind that if some university published some sort of study on it, the findings would be staggering, though potentially not at all correlated. It would be titled “The Long Term Effects of Bus Window Vibrations on the Human Brain”. And it would be published on Buzzfeed, next to an article about the horrible effects of eating too much of something really common that he probably already ate too much of, and most definitely wasn’t going to stop, but would undoubtedly read the article anyway.
But Blain wouldn’t care about any of this anyway. He knew He’d probably be dead long before the window could possibly have killed him. There was too many other irresponsible habits in his life which would quite likely lead to his eventual demise. And with this thought came the adamant knowledge that even having been fully informed and educated about the unhealthy side effects of any of his “bad” habits would make absolutely no difference to his life style. Or at least, he thought ironically, it wouldn’t make any positive difference in his habits anyhow, though in an oddly self-destructive way could lead to more negative ones. Blain got a sick sort of pleasure from doing things he probably shouldn’t for his own health.
Blain always thought about smoking while riding the bus. To be fair he thought about smoking most of the time. Almost all the times, minus the times he actually was smoking. The irony of it was that the reason he wanted to smoke on the bus was because he wasn’t allowed to smoke there. There was an unwarranted internal desire in him to do things he wasn’t supposed to do in places he wasn’t supposed to be doing it. But apart from that, the rule itself was a constant reminder that he wanted to do something he wasn’t supposed to want to do. He thought about this bitterly as he noticed the giant looming burning cigarette in a giant red circle with a slash through it above his head. The international symbol that reminded him he wanted to be doing something he probably ought not to want to do.
He counted them once, and there are six paintings of giant smoldering cigarettes on this bus. All of them allegedly giving off the public announcement that one, smoking is bad. And two, you definitely can’t do it here. So the irony of it all was that the more the public came to realize that smoking caused cancer, and the more the public tried to remove the cancerous act from public places, the more Blain was bombarded with the reminder that wherever he was and whatever he was doing, he wanted to be there and doing it while smoking.
Blain knew perfectly well that smoking caused cancer, and he knew that cancer may very well cause his death. But for all he knew if the cigarettes don’t kill him than maybe the bus’s vibrations shaking his brain around inside his skull might.
At the stop outside of the some chicken processing plant, a large group of drunken college students boarded the bus. They boarded loudly enough to make any attempt for Blain becoming an ethereal ghostly viewer impossible. “Looks like I forgot it was Friday night”, Blain thought to himself bitterly.
The bus is quickly devoured by college students. And although the bus quickly fills to capacity, Blain makes little attempt to give up the back row which he is still slumped across. Nor does the homeless man- whose name Blain knows is Joe- who’s sleeping five rows up.
A young man wearing a blazer boarding with a particularly attractive girl, takes the row in front of Blain. The girl wasn’t attractive in a typical way, but in an interestingly pleasant way. She had the look of the protagonist to a very bittersweet romance novel. The kind where half the characters die. Blain dedicated the girls look to memory in the unlikely attempt he ever chooses to write such a novel. The man in the blazer on the other hand was as classically attractive as a man could be. He was like a cookie cutting of what society deemed beautiful. He was tall, thin but not skinny, and had hair as dark as a ravens. With a face modeled from handpicked clippings of men’s fashion magazines. Not masculine, but not feminine, but completely standardized. To Blain, in a world devoid of authentic individual beauty, the boy in the blazer was as boring as ever. And boring, over anything else, made a person ugly.
Blain himself was not particularly attractive. He knew this, but he also knew that despite this he never seemed to have any trouble finding people who wanted to have sex with him. As far as he was concerned that meant he was attractive enough. So he knew he wasn’t unattractive either. He also knew that he certainly wasn’t boring looking.
His face was interesting enough. A cross between a large beaked bird and a mere cat. It was angular, and pointed. He had a prominent nose that stuck out perhaps farther than it should and a chin that pointed perhaps too low to the ground. No, Blain was not principally “good looking”, but as Blain would say to himself in the mirror, “no one in the world could pull this mask of a face off better than me”.
As far as being good looking was concerned one thing that Blain definitely had going for him was that time has been good to him. Despite being on the wrong side of forty-five, he still looked- though certainly not young- “pretty damn good”, as most people tell him, for his age. The miles had left just a perfect amount of markings on his face, enough to give him sophistication but not yet enough to make him look old. His hair was still a dark brown and was still healthy and thick. And however he didn’t have an athlete’s body, he certainly wasn’t skinny and he definitely wasn’t fat. All of this made Blain, most doctors would agree, given the amount Blain smoked and drank, a phenomenon.
Sometimes it’s hard to understand why a person dislikes something. Or someone. Blain couldn’t explain why he disliked Mr. Blazer, but he knew he definitely did. Actually no, he knew exactly why he disliked him. It was that fucking blazer. That goddamn red with stupid black shoulder pads blazer.
“You can’t trust a man in a blazer,” Blain often thought.
What the hell is a blazer anyway, and when the hell are you supposed to wear one? It certainly isn’t casual, but it also isn’t quite fancy. When does the blazer fit into any given social situation? Blain had absolutely no idea, but he did know that he never saw a person in a blazer who didn’t know. They always wore it exactly at the right time and moment, and they always looked like they knew exactly what they were doing, and where they were supposed to be. They cracked the code- the “dress code” if you will. Blain never could crack that code, not in so far as blazers were concerned. He didn’t even know where to buy a blazer, and certainly didn’t trust people who did.
“Blazers are disguises”, he often thinks to himself. The best disguise, because society seems to have forgotten that’s what they are. They are easy to hide behind because of this. Yes, Blain had decided he definitely didn’t like this young attractive blazer wearing prick. And he certainly didn’t understand why the worldly embodiment of his future romance novel’s protagonist was sitting with him.
“Ah shit, I completely forgot, I’m supposed to have a late night study session with Alvin tonight”. The girl, who Blain has decided would definitely be named Evelynn in his book, says to Mr. Blazer. “Maybe I shouldn’t go out tonight?”
“Come on”, Mr. Blazer says as he simultaneously and very forwardly puts his arm across the top of the bench, and with it Evelyn’s shoulders. “You’ve got the rest of your life to study.”
“But I’m assuming you must be a once in a lifetime opportunity Mr. Blazer”, Blain thinks and almost says out loud.
“You know what”, Evelynn says with a sigh from some sort of imaginary weight lifting off her shoulders, “You’re right”.
Mr. Blazer suddenly turns around, looking hilariously angry, “Excuse me good sir, my friends are standing and you appear to be taking up four seats, and I was wondering-
“You are a tiresome, blazer wearing, self-righteous prick” Blain cuts in. “And I’m afraid I can’t give up my seats because I’m saving them for your mother”, he calmly states.
Blain doesn’t know what reaction this statement causes, because immediately following it he closes his eyes and presses his head hard against the bus window and starts falling asleep as the vibrations make his head buzz. Mr. Blazer doesn’t say anything else to Blain. Blain knew he wouldn’t.
Blain lights a cigarette.