You lean out into the road as far as you dare. No bus in sight. You stamp your feet to keep warm as you contemplate the frosted pines across the street. Straining your eyes for movement, you spy a lone female blackbird plucking and swallowing berries from a hawthorn—you know she’s a female because she’s brown—and smile despite the worry that you will arrive late to your office in central Prague.
To your left, others wait for the bus, each a meter apart as usual. You’ve never understood this—they will all have to move forward when the bus comes. You are standing exactly where you know the back door will open. Brakes squeak as the bus materializes. Thanks to your foresight, you are first at the back door, and you hop into your favorite seat—just above the tire. It is too high for elderly or disabled people, so you probably won’t have to give it up. Plus, there’s a barrier behind you.
You pull out a book to avoid seeing the gum-chewing man across the aisle. His eager mastication makes you both anxious and queasy, and you imagine that one of your uncle’s cows has stood up on two legs, put on a pair of jeans and a stupid, poofy coat, and decided to take a bus tour. The book doesn’t help because you can still hear him. You raise your head and give him a pointed look. The offender stares back in glassy-eyed oblivion. You consider switching places, but sloth and stubbornness glue your butt to the seat.
You close your eyes and whisper, “I feel powerful, capable, confident, energetic, and on top of the world.” You repeat it three times. Your crunchy, yoga-teaching friend swears by it.
A mechanized female voice announces this stop and the next: “Koleje Strahov. Příští zastávka, Malovanka.”
A herd of college students swarm the bus and you thank the universe that you have a seat. Not only do you not have to stand, but neither will you be bumped by backpacks, purses, and other people’s rear ends. You press against the fogged-up window to avoid the teenage man-spreader with dog breath who has taken the next seat.
“Malovanka. Příští zastávka, Pod Královkou.”
The gum-smacker ambles off the bus to his urban pasture. Not that it matters much now, with the students telling inappropriate accounts of their weekend activities at top volume, listening to techno music on poor-quality earbuds, and munching on baguettes.
“Prašný most. Příští zastávka, Vítězné náměstí.”
You abandon your book to admire the castle. You always make sure you look at the castle when going this way. You reflect on how lucky you are to live in a place with a castle. Your high school boyfriend is probably playing video games in his mom’s basement at this moment, and the girls who called you “teacher’s pet” are working at Walmart—not that there’s anything wrong with working at Walmart, you check yourself, but you’d much rather share the bus with gum-smackers, chip-crunchers, and man-spreaders while you gaze at a gothic castle.