The Damage. Short Story #1

Young girl stands in a bus station.  27.  Backpacking.  Thirst for adventure.

She goes to the vending machine to get snacks and hears a man calling out.  Was he calling to her?  She turns and doesn’t recognise him.  No.  Why would he?  This is far from home.  She turns away.  Goes to the machine.  But she feels his eyes on her.  That sensation of being watched.  It’s familiar.  Outcasts in small towns draw attention.

She hears the voice again and turns.  This time the call out is definitely not to her.  This time it’s to a man in a purple shirt.  ‘Hey you!  Purple shirt guy!  You look like a grape, asshole’.  The man in the purple shirt looks offended but doesn’t retaliate to the outspoken stranger.

Maybe he’s on drugs, maybe crazy.  Definitely not pleasant either way.  Avoid.

The air is tense.  It’s late.  People are tired and just want to get where they’re going.  Nevermind this nut.

Realising she doesn’t have change for the machine the girl heads toward the shop, an all-night grocery shop.  The man doesn’t follow her but the angle of his body does.  She still feels the eyes following her.  She glances up and catches sight of him as he swings around to keep her in his line of sight.  She doesn’t want to make eye contact or draw his attention any further.  Avoid.  Look Busy.  Be busy.

He flails his arms around.  From the corner of her eyes she sees him flailing and can hear him talking to himself, or to someone nearby.  They aren’t talking to him.  No-one is.  But that doesn’t stop his monologue.  Those crazy arms.

She gets her snacks and finds a place in the bus queue.  She stands well back between a student in front and a mother and son behind her.  She moves to where he can’t see her, tries to escape those piercing eyes.  But he moves so he can see her.  He has no bag to watch.  No bag, no coat, queuing for an eleven hour bus journey with nothing but jeans and a t-shirt, and a bad attitude.

He has stepped out of the queue to see her and continues the stare.  He flails his arms again and she fumbles with her papers, books, anything, trying to look busy.  She hears the two behind her in the queue chatting.  Something about their kind, low voices makes her feel safer.  They seem nice.  She looks back and smiles at them.  They smile back reassuringly.  If the man comes any closer maybe they’d help her get him away.  He continues to look at her with intent then looks at the two behind with disdain.

‘Woah,’ says the guy behind her to his companion, ‘he’s looking you up and down, what’s with him?

‘I don’t know, he’s really staring this girl out too.  She’d need to be careful, looks like she’s on her own here.’

Hearing this concern and seeing the man start to edge further out of the queue and closer towards them the girl turns and says hi.  They say hi too and ask where she’s going.  They compliment her accent and say where they are headed to.  Not quite so far as her, but far enough.  The girl asks if she’s in the right queue lane for her ticket and on looking at the print out the woman says ‘no, lucky you aren’t, you should be over there’, pointing further to the left to the first boarding lane that’s already starting to move.  Relief.  She moves with good reason to.  She moves like lightening.  Boards the bus.  Out of danger.  Squeezing in behind a guy who looks like he could take on a lion.  Avoidance successful.

Enrique was born in a run-down farmhouse in a desolate area in Nevada.  His father sold guns in the back of the house and said he didn’t have to go to school because it was too far away and the car was broken down.  One day a man came to the house to buy a gun but instead he shot Enrique’s father three times in the chest and once in the head.  Enrique’s body shook with a tremor as he watched his father die and his arms flailed to the sides.  From that day on they continued to flail to the sides every time he remembered that scene.  He relived it 92 times a day in his head and didn’t know how not to.

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