A half-empty bus. Only rain and evening shades outside. I was just going to listen to some music, when a couple hopped on the bus: a he and a she. No—a He and a She! She spread out the heavy cascades of her hair over her shoulders. He nervously adjusted his skinny jeans—one pant leg rolled down, while it should have been rolled up, a white sock peeking out. They stood right in front of me, the droplets of rain from her damp hair splattering on to my face.
“What you’re listening to?” He asked in broken Ukrainian, pointing at her rose gold headphones.
“All kinds of stuff. Just good, romantic music,” She said.
Her smile was so forced and strained, that I immediately knew: they had just met. A couple of twentysomethings. Having met downtown—for the first time in real life, they were now on their way toward a cozy evening, tea-drinking, and kisses.
“What about you?” She asked, feigning curiosity.
“Heavier stuff. Something more rhythmical. Industrial. Aggrotech,” He said, pointedly, frowning.
“Like Armin van Buuren, yeah?! I love him, too. He’s got these nice long tracks—one hour each!” She parroted, happily.
He snorted and was about to curl his lip sarcastically, but then He pulled himself up—their first date, after all!—and put on a somewhat arrogant, condescending grin. Just a moment ago, She was leaning toward him, but now she pulled back, her eyebrows sagging. I didn’t envy them. Discovering shared interests is real hell. How many shots you have to make. How many times you have to flare up with hope only to get frustrated and, biting your lip, try over and over, keeping at hand all your secret attractions intended for the first date.
“What about books? What’ve you read?” She was still nursing a hope.
I looked at him. Pelevin—I was pretty sure that’s what he’d say.
“Pelevin. Viktor Pelevin,” He said, indifferently, as if her bus ticket had fluttered to the floor and he was telling her she might as well pick it up.
Pelevin’s name didn’t seem to mean anything to her. With her cold fingers, she was anxiously tearing up the ticket that should’ve fallen onto the floor.
“You?” He asked coldly. He couldn’t care less about her reading.
Murakami, Bradbury, Coelho—I went over the writers’ names in my mind, looking at her turquoise hat.
“Osho!” She said, readily.
“Sho-sho?” He joked, making a pun. “What?”
He gave her a wink. They both burst out laughing. At that moment, the bus hit a pothole and jumped up and down, as if on cue—and She fell into his arms.
A woman my own age, sitting behind me, was speaking on the phone in a toneless voice. She was talking very quietly, but I still heard everything she said:
“Oh, come on. Not that again. I’m sick of those sitcoms. Let’s watch some serious movie. Something meaningful. I bought some cheese. Camembert. Ca-mem-bert. Yeah. There’s wine. Wine, I’m saying. I put it in the cupboard. Okay, I’m not talking Bergman, but not those dumb TV series, please. I can’t do that anymore. I’m working all day long, too. Drama is no rest? What do you mean? It’s just a movie. We watched Muratova once, remember? Long time ago. Too long. Okay, I’ll be there in twenty minutes.”
The woman behind me pressed her cheek against a window, her eyes closed. She was probably recalling the moment when she herself had hopped on a bus with a cheerful young guy and asked him over for tea, kisses, and movies. They’d watched them on a DVD back then. She felt sad.
It seemed that the couple in front of me hit it off finally. They stopped trying to discover the shared interests—they were just standing there, no longer hugging, but holding each other’s gazes and hands so hard that you wanted to stare at them and not look away.
Behind me, the telephone rang. The woman rejected the call and put the phone back into her pocket. The bus stopped. Holding hands, He and She got off the bus into the thick darkness. Through the doorway, I saw him lean forward to whisper something in her ear. The door closed, but I still knew exactly what He told her.