By Pamela Gay
She jumps out of her seat, her penciled brows looking like dashes off balance, and scowls down the aisle. Her bangs, cut sharp and short, accentuate her round face and give her a don’t-even-think-of-messing-with-me look. “Would you turn that air down?!? I’m freezing!” she yells at the Airport Bus driver collecting tickets. The angry woman zips up her purple fleece, causing her XL pink shirt to billow out like a tutu. It is August. It is hot. Passengers are sweating. No one dares ask the driver to turn up the air.
“He’ll see what he can do. It’s hard to regulate,” she mimics the driver’s response, jostling passengers with her hips as she heads back down the aisle to her seat. She is worried about time, will she get to her plane in time. The boarding is too slow. There is sure to be traffic. If there’s an accident, another delay. Her seat is too small, the bus too crowded. She doesn’t want anyone next to her, someone sitting next to her, some person with some story that is not her story.
A mother and son sit in the seat behind her and both put on headphones. The boy moves his head and shoulders back and forth, back and forth, rapping out loud with the music. The angry woman turns her pained expression on full blast, throws back her hood, and tells the mother to tell the boy to be quiet. “I’m very tired,” she enunciates slowly as if they were from another country. “Do you understand?” The mother remains calm and when the woman turns around and puts up her hood, the mother tells her son to rap quietly, perhaps hum instead.
The angry woman storms down the aisle again, bundled in her fleece, her tutu flying. “My father died,” she shouts at the driver. “Do you understand?”
The bus pulls out of the station. A little air ekes through the vents.
“My father died,” she turns to the passengers, “and I don’t want to go to the funeral sick.” A passenger eyes her, looks away.
Feeling warmer now, she puts her hood down and unzips her fleece. As she sits down again, she sees reflected in the window the outline of her body—fat. Don’t go and get yourself fat, her father used to say. Like your mother, he didn’t say. She was about the age of that boy behind her, the one rapping. Quiet now, he is too quiet. What is he thinking, her yelling like that, out of control. Miss Rotunda, we’ll be calling you. If her father could see her now.
Once she hit middle age, she got what they called “the spread.” Middle-age spread, which made it sound like some margarine. Everything went wrong: Her husband left her for a younger woman; her daughter blamed her; she lost her job; she began eating to distract herself.
She was going to see her father last year, but then she realized how fat she’d gotten—she’d gone and gotten herself fat. And now, she’s mad. Mad, mad, mad. Mad he never ever, that he went and died without ever, now never, they could never–
Pamela Gay teaches Flash Fiction at Binghamton University, State University of New York. Her writing has been published in Iowa Review Web, Other Voices, Paterson Literary Review, BOGG: Journal of Contemporary Writing, Neotrope: Progressive Fiction, Phoebe, and Le Forum. She is the recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) award for creative nonfiction and has also received grants from the New York State Council of the Arts (NYSCA) for installations based on her writing.