A young woman, about 25, sat across from me on the bus. I’m just guessing her age of course—I certainly didn’t ask her how old she was. In fact I didn’t speak to her at all. I wasn’t even on her radar. No one was. Like so many other riders she was involved with her phone—typing, scrolling, reading and so on. If she noticed me at all it was only peripherally. (Though I suppose it’s possible she was texting her friend about the creepy old geezer staring at her from across the aisle.) But I wasn’t staring. (Honestly, I wasn’t!) I was merely noticing, and what I noticed was this: She looked to be about 25. But, as I said, just a guess.
I had noticed something before noticing how young or old she looked. Her legs had briefly been at eye level as she boarded the bus and I noticed the elaborate network of varicose veins that tunneled under the pale skin of her calves like an ant farm—a family of throbbing blue worms playing a game of twister. From behind, I thought she was much older. It wasn’t until she was sitting in the seat across from me that I took a stab at her age: 25, I guessed..
We both got off the bus at the same stop—she ahead of me. I walked behind her for half a block and watched as she pulled a pack of cigarettes from her handbag. Without stopping she tapped a cigarette from the pack, lit it up, and took that first, satisfying drag. We had only been on the bus for about fifteen minutes but the way she smoked, she looked like she just got off an international flight from Hong Kong.
“That can’t be good for her legs,” I thought. But of course I didn’t say it. Not to her. Not out loud. I didn’t speak to her at all—nor her to me. I wasn’t even on her radar.