The bus stop was a small muddybrown thing, etched with indecipherable gang hieroglyphics, erected on the topside of an overpass by the college. Waiting there any day one could see sparrows giddily hop from concrete perches and glide into the tunnel. They had no doubts about it. They, being so natural with weight-free bones and well adorned with specked feathers, made mockery of suicidal heights. They would peck at dutiful ants and—when the mood fit them, or the pickings became slim—jump. In the street were the remains of a crow that had been struck by some heady vehicle an indeterminable number of hours or days ago. A winged thing without the glee, or was it luck, of the sparrows. It had flattened out, being eroded by the tons of pressure of countless tires—brief, but pinpointed, blasts of weight. In fact the only discernible difference between the crow and the asphalt surrounding it was a subtle change in texture. The feathers’ black and bloody sheen emphasized by morning light in what would otherwise be a matte field of pavement. And another car passes.
Ethan was there earlier than usual, and as a result the usual person who silently accompanied him in his waiting—an Asian girl with a rotund face and bubbly pink tennis shoes which would often become the resting point of his near dawn, unawakened, soft-gaze—was absent. There was instead a boy, or rather, an apparition of a boy. An entity with all of the silhouetted appearances of a boy, but notably empty of any adolescent radiance that one might expect. He—the boy, no older than ten—was hunched in a way that exuded angst that he should not have known for some years, but the reasons for this became apparent immediately when he turned to scan the street for a bus. Scratches all down his arms, but too deep and red and swollen to be caused by an animal, and a bruised eye. A bruised eye on a face that had more rubbery, baby fat than muscle. A bruised eye with shot blood and wincing laziness.
Ethan thought he should say something, but what was there that could be said?
“Are you okay?”
“Do you want me to call someone?”
“Where are you going?”
“I am so, so sorry.”
Ethan thought about many things that he could say or do, he thought about—in a moment of romantic imagination—hugging the boy and through this action absolving him, but ultimately did nothing. He just examined the boy, petrified.
Ethan’s bus arrived and he got on and fumbled in his pocket for change, clanging his keys stupidly and holding up the commute of all aboard. The driver said, “You already paid, go sit down man.” So Ethan sat down.