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Free Association- Read At Own Risk

Cleveland was not looking like a possibility.

"Why the hell you wanna go there anyway?"

I didn't know.  But I wanted to give a clever response.

"Because I've never seen a homeless man." I've done better.

"Cleveland," Rosalind said, "is a cess pool.  You'd have to bathe for a week."

He stopped the bus.  A crowd of children rushed to the doors.  Rosalind opened them long enough for one boy in torn blue jeans to run on, then slammed them shut and sped down the road.  He rolled the window down so he could hear their screams and they his laughter, and set him free after a few stops.

"Sorry," he snorted, "I love doing that to people.  Specially kids.  What the fuck are they doing on a bus anyway?"

"Maybe it's a cesspool.  But I've never been."

"You go to one, you get a feeling for what all the others are like."

"So you don't want to go with me?"

"I'm on the fence." Rosalind said.  "I need a better reason than just you never been there."

"Alright.  I've never been there and you have a bus.  And we're both crazy."

"And people are starting to pick up on it here.  They're even starting to figure out what gender you are."

"Impossible.  This jacket strips me of all sexes."

"Fuck it's ugly."

"I thank you kindly."

I am emaciated.  I wear a bowl cut and a Members Only jacket.

"Eventually word will catch on that you've stolen this bus.  Why not make a break for it while there's a chance?"

Rosalind drives past a stop sign.  "Because I'm trying to decide what would be more fulfilling.  A cross country joy ride, or being the local crazy bus driver."

"I'm inclined to believe that the former would be more rewarding.  Because the latter brings the possibility of jail."

He cuts across three lanes.  "You'ore just biased cause of Cleveland.  Fuck Cleveland."

I lie down across the seats.  Looking crazy provides many the convenience in life- no one will bother you if you foam at the mouth.  I have grown disheartened, daunted perhaps by my friend's rebukes of my dream.  In sooth, I know not why I am so sad.  Ohio's underarm probably won't fix anything, but the stronger the sadness, the sharper the wanderlust.  Just run and run and run until something changes for fuck's sake.

"The fuck's eating you?"  We love all the same curses.  "Are you really that bummed about it?"

"Me thinks this bus needs more passengers."

"Done and done."  Rosalind swerves around a corner.  The bottom left tire goes up on the curb and lands with such a quake I am lifted upright.  A woman is on her cell phone.  She donates 2 dollars to our travel fund.

Oftentimes Rosalind and I have synchronized thought, but in moments like these, with multiple options of equal appeal, I am given no signals but what is broadcast on his face.  The woman sits in the back seat and does not speak English.  I flirt with my eyes and she is baffled.

Fancy a ride to Cleveland?

The size of Rosalind's smile dictates his intention. It stretches across his jaw.  I am giddy.  His eyes slide to me.  A nod.  I sit behind her and my stomach seems to buzz with nervous juices. 

Her perfume is too strong.  This used to be a pet peeve but as it clogs my senses it is at least something.  This will at least be something.  It is enough to make my body hum, if only for a moment. 

Gently I cup my hand around the one holding her phone.  Her body jolts, but I am surprised she does not struggle further. 

"Hello.  I like your hair."

Beautifully calm, she stands and walks to the door.

"Open door?  Can I get off here?"

"I'm gonna have to say no, dearie."

Oh Rosalind, my dear and seedy cohort.  Our brains are and ever have been tuned to the same wavelength.

Her face begins to drop, in a frightened anger I have not previously seen.

"Why not?"  she steps back and bumps me.  Another lovely jolt.  I touch her arms as lightly as I can.

"Because that is not the stop you seek.  And it is our duty, nay, privilege to get you to your destination."

"Quit with the queer talk."  Rosalind says.

Normally I would listen, but her smell and hair and fear have choked my reason.  When one's senses have been numbed to stubs of their former selves, any sensation can propel them into insanity.  I rant and forget my century, and her eyes widen and swallow me.  She the lovely she the fragrant lovely.

"Whoa whoa put the knife down."

"But I want to know what her blood smells like."

"Where do you even keep that thing?!"

She is screaming now, screaming and the sound pierces me.  My hand slips and grazes her arm and I cannot see or think there is only shrieking.  When my eyes clear I am on the floor and she is pointing the blade at me, tendrils of blood leaking down her arm.

"Feel free to kill me if you like."

The bus stops.  Door opens.  Red stained Athena glances back, drops knife, and darts off.  Goodbye my frightened gazelle. 

"Jesus Christ if I'da known you had a knife."

I watch the weapon slide up and down the aisle as the vehicle lurches.  Is this perfection, this blade I see before me?

"I say Rosalind," the knife's glare blinds me.  "Fancy a trip to Cleveland?"