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She gets on the bus outside the local diner. Is she a girl or a woman? Definitely not yet a lady. Not old enough to drink legally, but she knows someone who will buy if you stand on the sidewalk outside the grocery store just down the square from the diner. He was her older sister’s boyfriend for a few months. He asked for her a blowjob when she was fourteen and that ended the love affair with her sister. If she’d had a big brother it would have meant a broken nose for her buyer, but no such luck. Instead he just told everyone she’d done it and ruined her reputation in this small town for the four-year sentence they called high school. Like the prison, it was in the middle of a corn field. The community college she attends has a similar location, but sometimes it’s soybeans.

Her hair is off her neck, swept up in a pouf of bottle-blond hair and snarls and hair spray that’s not so different from the hairstyle her mother wore that first caught the eye of the father she sees every other weekend and a bit more in summers. She’s busty and, even when she doesn’t intend to show it off, it spills over the neckline of her t-shirts. Her chest consumes the fabric of her tee and leaves little to cover her belly, which is similarly ample, thanks, in part, to the alcohol purchased for her by the blowjob-obsessed ex-boyfriend of her older sister and aided by the sugary energy drink, extra large, that she holds in one hand as she boards the bus today and every day. Her eyes, already large in her small face, are magnified by thick black eyeliner above and below the eye and the thick eyelash extensions that she’s had permed and lacquered with mascara from that classic pink tube her mother recommended when she entered middle school. Her eyeshadow, an astonishing aqua, further magnifies her baby blues, perched above magenta lips slathered with lip gloss from a tube bearing the trademark of Victoria and her secret.

Across her back she bears a yoga mat and over one shoulder a book bag and a large cloth purse adorned with scribbled obscenities and pop culture slogans penned by Shakepeares with Sharpies. She sips her energy drink, in love with a monster who is eating her from the inside out, and gazes vacantly out the bus window opposite her seat. She glances briefly at the middle-aged woman across the aisle and barely suppresses a small shudder. She’s a librarian at the college and her pants don’t cover her ankles, her gray hair hangs in a fringe that was supposed, by her hairdresser, to be a bob, but that can’t bob without the help of chemicals in which the librarian no longer believes. Her polyester pants stretch across a wide bottom and an ample pooch that suggests children the librarian does not, in fact, have. The librarian smiles patronizingly at the young woman and gestures to her to allow her to exit the bus first as they come to a halting stop outside the glass-covered, corporate, main entrance of the college. Her smile fades and her patronization becomes pity as she watches the broad expanse of white flesh bubbling over the young woman’s pants, which she hitches up like a farmhand, as she stands to exit the glory that is public transportation. As they walk past the bus driver, the cloying spicy aroma of the young woman’s body spray mixes with the natural aroma of the librarian known as body odor in less couth times, and the bus driver turns his head to the small window at his left in order to gulp in the refreshingly neutral smell of the bus’s diesel exhaust as he fantasizes about the cigarette he will be able to have in two hours when he finally gets a break from driving around in an infinite circle. Both women thank him as they step onto the sidewalk and both, as they make their ways to the building, wonder what they’re thanking him for.

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