Bus 174 – Suchi Rudra

Bus 174 pushes away from the hospital. The trams droop along their dictated path, the bus worms its way along with them until we reach the open space, past the monastery, where a bus stop waits along a busy highway intersection, a stubborn point, nowhere to look. All the stopped people shift their breath, search for focus in the vast brown-green field that eats up the air.

Our combined energies are slowly pushing the field away. It is moving beside us, among lost feet praying for balance. I lurch and grasp a yellow pole in the dirty accordion midsection of the bus; I must be the spleen, I am unsure what I am for, why I’m still here. Standing at another yellow pole as if tethered to it is a grey-eyed, blue-lidded woman. She is the heart, her finger nails are chipped red but still grasping.

We the bored guts of bus 174 are handling the field, rolling it like a plate on its side across a stripped dinner table. The stiff turn brings a focus we feel in our body. The hill takes one minute and eight seconds to curve around, and only after 45 seconds do you wonder what the top looks like. We are mostly sure the bus will not drop sideways, windows full of tree roots, landing like a toy, exploding like a movie set. The heart adjusts her hair at the top of the hill, chews her fingertips.

As the bus pauses in traffic, the boy who is a shoulder opens a window and gets a few looks. One of the dogs closest to the heart senses something like happiness on the wind that climbs through the window. He barks at it, warning. The bus continues, the dog quiets. He drops back onto the floor, sliding out his back legs, tail curled up to barricade. His master is firmly buttoned into her black coat and chewing her patchy lip skin.

There are many more stops to go before the end, and I move to sit down, but then a long green caterpillar boards and takes the last empty seat, not far from the bottom of the stomach. She wipes at invisible debris and sits, swathed in a thick white coat. She gives off a faint smell like a soft, young tree. I tilt into her direction, but the scent has already been dismembered by the inside air.

I keep trying to be still when everything is moving. From the corner of my eye, I watch the caterpillar. She is twisting in her seat, restless. The dog starts to wander over to take a closer look, his master reigns him in tight, mumbling, licking off blood. He lies back down, tail alert, ready just in case. From the corners everyone sees this and shakes their heads, there is no just in case. The caterpillar is twitching, she does nothing extraordinary yet; if she was yellow, she could be another pole to hold onto. But we are expecting something dramatic, memorable, fantastic, and I realize how natural that is. It’s so natural, I almost cannot feel this instinct forming inside of me. Yet it is there, filling up these seconds that stand like empty bottles along the endless fence bordering us in.

 

Suchi Rudra

Born and raised in the midwestern US, Suchi Rudra is a nomadic writer of fiction, articles and songs. Her novella Kitaab, published by Six Gallery Press, is based on a year living in India. Her journalistic credits include NYT, BBC Travel, October. She is currently seeking representation for a literary fiction novel.

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