Later in the night, the potholed road took its toll on the bus with a flat tire. He gingerly stepped out of his berth, careful not to wake the woman. Which didn’t work as fumbling in the dark for shoes has never proven to be an easy task, ever. She looked at him with sleepy eyes and asked something in her language. He gestured her to stay put, managed to convey to her everything was ok, and went out to stretch his legs. Their semi-forced cohabitation of the berth for a few hours seemed to have given rise to years of simulated nocturnal comfort and safety in her.

When he re-entered, he found the woman asleep, comfortably and fully stretched on his berth, his backpack and book neatly stowed to the side. True, he had enjoyed her very present presence, but he was determined not to switch places with her. He gently prodded her in the leg, and she woke up startled. Grinning sheepishly, she moved back to her seat and fussily gathered the shawl around her.

When he awoke next morning at the noisy terminus, he found the woman pressed against him as before. Nothing had really changed between him and her, the two strangers. Separated by a thin shawl and cold metal, separated further still by who they were, they had been together for a night, tentatively seeking, and finding from each other something that was either teleologically superior or inferior to the simple act of two physical bodies voluntarily inhabiting a confined space together for an extended period of time; superiority/inferiority being purely subjective.

***

As she left the bus in a hurry, she forgot her shawl. he called out to her and handed it through the window. She smiled her brilliant, toothy smile. He smiled back. He didn’t know her name or anything about her; he didn’t want to.

*

Part 3 | Part 2 | Part 1