Dude-Bro was pretty sure we were meant to be friends. Nevermind that we had never set eyes on one another until we happened to board the same bus in the morning. I took the first available inward facing seat and settled in to affect the detached self- reflection of the daily commuter. Dude-Bro wavered in the aisle, struggling to decide whether to take the seat beside me or across from me, leaning back and forth with indecision and the lurch of the bus pulling away from the curb.  At last he settled into the seat across from me, slightly to my left. 

Once settled, I ignored him. He was quite sure we were meant to be friends.  I realized he was making some effort to wave to me in my peripheral vision. Thinking I might’ve dropped something or that there was something important going on, I took out one earbud.

Did I have any gum? He wanted to know. 

No, I had no gum.

Did I have any mints?

No. No mints.

The subject of what breath fresheners I did or did not have in my possession was thus exhausted. I put the earbud back in and ignored him again. It had been a conversational gambit. I was not interested in a conversation. 

Dude-Bro once again waved in my peripheral vision, and I turned down the thermostat on my personal space. I put on sunglasses and closed my eyes. I wanted to rest. I was Not Interested in making friends with a stranger on the bus, no matter how jaunty the angle of his baseball cap or how gaudy the ring on his forefinger or how trenchant the aroma of marijuana which accompanied him. 

At the next stop I cracked my left eye just wide enough to see him cross the aisle to take the seat beside me. There was going to be no rest on this leg of my trip. I continued to ignore him. I doubted that Dude-Bro had the bandwidth to pick up on a hint, but I wasn’t about to give him any attention either. 

When I failed to acknowledge presence, Dude-Bro tapped my arm. If he said anything, I failed to hear it over the music in my ears. He tapped my arm a second time- you know, just in case I missed it the first time. I continued to ignore it. I wasn’t going to open my eyes or move a muscle until the bus was pulling into my stop, and not a moment sooner. I wasn’t going to give Dude-Bro the satisfaction of a reaction and I wasn’t going to give him any time to decide to follow me when I got off. I just had to sit tight until then. 

I became aware of Dude-Bro shifting his weight beside me. It didn’t take long to figure out why: I felt an aura of heat pass over my head and settle behind my shoulders: Dude-Bro had pulled the classic stretch-into-arm-across-the-shoulders move of high school students everywhere. Behind closed lids I caught myself rolling my eyes. He wasn’t actually touching me, but he was escalating his game. The bus pulled into my station and I stood up without looking at him and descended in three or four interrupted steps. I looked back at the crosswalk to see if he’d followed me.

 He hadn’t. 

Dude-Bro and I will never be friends now. 

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on March 29, 2017.

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