38 Geary

by Elizabeth Victoria Aldrich

It’s 3AM and I’m sitting on the wet plastic seat, waiting for the 38 Geary bus home.

I check the orange text above me: 15 minutes left. I light up a cigarette, still sitting, no one else is there to care except for the people who live on Market Street. The taste is bitter but I wake right up. I count my change so I use the least amount of quarters. My hands smell metallic. Everything’s damp. The city’s so empty at night. I’m not afraid of the other people still awake.

“How long have you been on the streets?” someone asks me, a middle-aged man in a wheelchair. “Oh, I–I don’t,” I say. It turns out we have the same phone.

I hear the rumble of the bus and then the screech of its stop, then the beep of the doors opening. My cigarette is left soaked on the ground. Right now, it’s only girls with graveyard shifts like me – and people who make the Muni smell like it does – on the bus. In one hour, only sleepy commuters with coffee thermals will be on the bus.

I’m about halfway home when I smell something awful. “Sorry,” someone says. “I’m sorry,” says a frail man, also on a wheelchair. I cover my mouth so I don’t somehow eat the smell. He shat on the bus, I think to myself. He fucking took a shit on the bus and it wasn’t even on purpose. I am never taking the bus again. I want to get off the bus but we’re in the dangerous, not just crazy part of the Tenderloin.

I wait until the Van Ness stop with Mel’s Diner, and get a cab home. Getting in the cab is like instant Xanax. Calm and warm and I can’t wait to go home, hide under my princess blanket and sleep. Open the door, take off my jacket, collapse on the bed. My roommate’s still up with a Netflix marathon. She says I smell like a stripper. “Like cigarettes and Victoria’s Secret Body Mist?” I offer. “Exactly,” she says.

You can follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @eris_rlt.