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stories & essays


mykel d. myles
poet, short story writer and essayist mykel d. myles is a native clevelander. he is the winner of the 1999 dogwood tales magazine humor fiction award; lakeland community college poetry award for 2000; and the paul lawrence dunbar poetry award from the detroit black writers guild. he is the former editor-in-chief of cleveland's own african town crier. mykeld@yahoo.com


The bus stop

He hurried to the stop, fearing the bus might be
coming soon, But there was still a wait. He sat the
plastic bag of stuff he had bought from the health
food store down at his feet and glanced around to
canvas the area. There was a woman at the stop
already. She was short and quite over weight. He had
no desire to start up a conversation with her. The
rest of the shopping center parking lot was busy. But
he saw nothing of particular interest, so he lit
himself a cigarette and prepared to wait for his bus.

The woman at the stop, he could see from his right
peripheral vision, was moving closer to him, the way
people do when they are about to start up a
conversation. He could tell she was about to say
something. So, he exhaled a long puff from his
cigarette and braced himself. He had to brace himself
because at a bus stop there was never any way of
knowing what state of mind the other person standing
there might be in. So he braced himself for whatever
might be on the way.

She moved closer to him. But, for a few seconds, she
just stood there. This gave him a little hope. Maybe
she would change her mind and move away again. But
just as his hopes started to rise, she said, "Do you
think I'm fat?" She said it real pleasantly, like
maybe she was just going to bother him for a second or
two. But, still, he could not figure out why she would
want his opinion. He looked at her. He was hoping she
would see from the look in his eyes that he really did
not want to talk.

He thought that she was fat. She was, he thought,
really fat. But, of course, he could not say that. He
had been raised to be honest, sure. But he had also
been taught about tact. So he decided to be tactful.
"Oh, I don't know," he said. "As long as you're
comfortable with yourself." Then he looked away, and
took another long draw from his cigarette.

"That's what I say," she said, jubilantly. "But you
know how friends always be saying stuff." She went on
and on...and on. He tried not to listen. But how could
he not hear her? She's right there at his side.
Talking and talking and ..."They be like, 'you should
lose weight.' Or they be saying, 'You got too pretty a
face to be that big!' And stuff like that."

He knew she was waiting for a reply, a response of
some kind anyway. So he said, "Really?"

"But I ain't that big, am I?" she queried again.

"Well, you can't always worry about what other people

"You right, you right," she said knowingly. "'Cause
they just be talking. And anyway some of them ain't
all that little their self, you know. Some of them.
Some of them are. But some ain't. They can't even be
talking. You know?"

He just smiled and glanced her way with a nod and a
soft affirmative chuckle. Then he looked away from
her, to his left, hoping to see the bus coming.

"My boyfriend, though, he be saying it too," she said

in a playful tone of mock frustration. "He be like,
'Come on, Baby, you know you could lose some of that!'
Then he say, 'I mean, I do like a little meat with my
potatoes, but I do want some potatoes, damn!' When he
first said that, I have to admit, it was funny. Even I
laughed. But he be saying stuff like that all the time

She waited for a response again. But he tried not to
show any, not even a reaction. He did not want to be
rude. Not that he could not be rude. He could. He had
been rude. But here he just wanted her to sense that
he really did not feel like talking. He wanted her to
just wait for her bus quietly. The way he was doing.

He said nothing. And for a few moments there was
silence. Quiet. He glanced around the lot again. Drew
a puff from his cigarette, and began to relax when....
"I mean, he is my man," she said. "We supposed to be
getting married. I know he care about me."

He sensed a tinge of annoyance coming over him now.
He did not want to respond again. But he really did
not want to be rude either. Nor did he want to make
her angry. He did not know her. She could be an ax
murderer or something. You just don't know these days.

But, still, he said nothing. He just glanced slightly
in her direction and smiled, acknowledging he was
hearing her. He took another puff from his cigarette.
A long one, deep and hard, trying to appear absorbed
in thought or something that might make her stop

It was quiet again. Maybe she had gotten the hint. He
was glad he had not been rude. Glad she had stopped
talking and glad... "My family be saying it, too." She
did it again, he thought. Just when he thought she had
gotten the message. She did it again. "Oh god yeah!"
she said, "'Girl!' they be saying, 'lose that weight.'
My father the only one don't be saying nothing. He
don't say much no way. He quiet. My whole family that
way, though. 'Cept my mother. Boy, can she talk, and
talk some more. I'm more like my father, though. I
could sit around all day long and don't say a word.
Get me a good book and I'm lost in it.

"But my mother! And my aunts! Dawg...Ain't none of
them fat, though," she went on. "And you know what?"
He was glad she did not wait for a response. "I really
don't eat that much."

Inside of his head, it kept reverberating - ì really
don't eat that much...I really don't eat that much...I
really don't...î

Now he was starting to get more than just a little
annoyed. She would not shut up. The bus was not
coming. And that comment about being quiet like her
father. What was that? Sort of like the ìI really
don't eat that muchî thing. He found that really hard
to believe. She was not an attractive woman to begin
with, he thought. No matter what she said earlier
about friends saying she has a pretty face. She did
not have a pretty face. And that fat was not helping
things at all.

"I be eating, like vegetables mostly. I eat meat. But
I really don't eat much," she went on and on..."You
think I'm fat?" Again, she did not wait for an answer.
And he did not give one. He sighed a deep sigh, trying
to contain his annoyance.

Most people would have seen in that sigh, that kind
of a sigh, a clear message that the person sighing did
not want to be bothered. He flicked his cigarette to
the curb and watched it roll out into the traffic lane
and get squashed by a big, fat car tire. He thought of
the woman next to him for some reason, when he saw

" 'Cause I really don't see it," she went on. "But
everybody be saying it."

He could not help it. He was annoyed. That might even
be too soft a way of putting it. But he was annoyed.
Really, he was annoyed mostly because she could not
see that, not only did he not want to talk, he did not
want to be talked to, either. Why couldn't she see
that? He picked up his bag by its handles. They
stretched a bit from the weight of all his health food
stuff. He was not going anywhere. He just wanted to do
something with his hands now that the cigarette was
gone. He held the bag in his hand for a second.
Shifted it to the other hand. Then sat it back down.

"You think I'm fat?" she asked it again. And this
time he decided to answer her.

He turned to look her right in the eyes. "Look," he
said calmly. "I was hurrying over here to this bus
stop because I thought the bus was here. It's always
on time." The woman just stood there staring up at
him. "I rushed up here," he continued, "thinking there
was a bus here." The woman stood looking up at him
more intently now. She seemed to really be interested
in where this conversation was going.

"But," he continued, "there was no bus here. You were
here. Do you know what that means, Lady?" She shook
her head slightly. That intent, interested look on her
face had shifted to curious bewilderment. "That means
the answer is yes. You are fat. I thought you were a
goddam bus! That's how big you are, Lady. Okay? You're
big as a goddam bus!!" he said, picking up his bag
again, its taut handles stretched to the limit.

She shut up and stood staring up at him with a biting
glare. Saying nothing, she cut her eyes angrily away
from him and stood defiantly, her chest heaving
rapidly up and down. Then the bus came.


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