When I was fourteen and so stupid, I said to my older sister, “Do you know, when I was waiting for the E bus, a man slowed his car down and stopped.”
“In front of the Burger King. On the other side of the street.”
“And what.” she said.
“Nothing.” I said. “He looked at me.”
“At nothing. What do you see here?”
“Exactly. What is he looking at?”
“He wants you to get in the car,” she said.
My sister hated me for being taller, but back then she stuck with me.
“He stopped to see if you are a prostitute.”
“He did not,” I said.
“Yeah, he did.”
“How am I going to be a prostitute? I don’t even have a pocketbook.”
“You don’t need a pocketbook. If a car slows down when you’re walking, don’t look at it.”
The next time I was on the corner across the street from the Burger King waiting for the bus to go to school, with my American History book the size of the Yellow Pages and “As I Lay Dying” and my bagged lunch, I decided if a car slowed down and a man leaned across the seat to get a better look at me, I would look him in the eye. He had to be a crazy person. Or maybe he couldn’t see without his glasses, but was driving around anyway. He probably lived at his mother’s house. He was probably weird and lonely and hated his mother but had no where else to live, because he couldn’t see well enough to get a job.
I thought about what I was wearing. Blue jeans that flared out at the bottom, and a baby blue t-shirt with short sleeves that flared out the same way my pants did. I had ironed my initials onto the front of the t-shirt. It was Spring, but it was cold, so I had on a long sleeved shirt under the t-shirt. I had Bonnebell watermelon lip gloss, that I wore on a string around my neck, sneakers, and short socks with pompoms at the back. The elastics on my braces stretched from my eye teeth diagonally down to my back molars. I had never seen a prostitute. I looked around.
The bus was taking forever. I thought about lunch. For 35 cents, you could get a vanilla cake with chocolate frosting or chocolate cake with vanilla frosting at the school cafeteria. Nothing else was worth it. I looked up to check for the bus and saw the same beige Chevy, slowing down in front of me. The man driving opened the window. Then he clicked the locks. He looked like he had missed dinner the night before and his hunger was starting to leak. I don’t know why anybody would pick beige for a car, unless it was the last one left.
We stayed like that for a minute, him clicking the locks and me looking at him. His eyes were as still as a lizard’s. I winked at him. Probably because I was an idiot. I could see his thoughts move around like a bunch of trapped flies and then fit themselves back together. Without taking his eyes off me, he reached over to open the car door.
“C’mon,” he said. “Where you going?”
I laughed at him. “Look at my teeth,” I said. I showed him my braces. That seemed to make his clothes itch. Or maybe he was late. He tried to gun it, but the car didn’t move because he wasn’t in gear. So I said, “It is not working out for you, is it?”
And he said, “You are some kind of bitch.”
The bus driver pulled up behind him and got irritated that he was sitting in his designated area and I got on the bus.