He became unsteadier as he jostled the standing victims that begrudgingly buoyed him. He continued to take turns resting momentarily on passengers before getting shaken off again. It seemed to occur to these collective passengers in the same moment that the man was falling asleep or about to vomit. The smell of his excess lay thick in the air, the stink of what he’d eaten entirely indiscernible from what he’d drank. He opened his eyes 10 per cent and then let them fall closed again dreamily, content to rest on or against anyone. Where had he come from? The money collector on the bus had started his periodic trip down the aisle and encountered the drowsy sickly man instructing him to behave himself. Passengers acknowledged the sentiment in a familiar way. It was apparently not the first time. He cursed briefly in an incoherent voice while searching for his bus fare, which he drew surprisingly quickly from his pocket and slapped down into the money collector’s hand. And then vomited on it and the coins that had just arrived there. Mothers and children screamed as spray landed in their hair and clothes. A week would pass before I dared to ride a chicken bus again.
I boarded the bus hurriedly and maneuvered boorishly down the aisle. Lop-sided by my forty-pound backpack and a 10-pound satchel at my right side, I bumped into the hapless passengers I encountered, while trying to hold on to a cob of grilled corn that dripped lemon and butter to my left hand and the floor. The bus had come quicker than I had expected and I had the recently purchased corn on the cob to prove it. There were no seats. As the bus huffed on, it continued to fill with transport needy passengers crowding the sliver thin aisle even when it looked like it couldn’t possibly fit another. I gripped the corn by the husk that kept it, my knuckles white. I was hungry. I managed to extricate myself from my bags by force-pushing them onto the steel bars fixed above the passenger’s heads. I ate voraciously. One hand gripped the steel rail close to my bags, while the other positioned the corn mouth and centre. Like a beaver on maple wood, the cob was de-corned with ruthless teethiness. It was as if it were the first and last I would ever eat. An animal hunger. I looked around me to see if anyone had found it strange that I had just eaten corn on this space-less bus and noticed a niblet of corn lying squarely on a seated elderly gentlemen’s knee.