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November 27, 2023
"Mes de los Muertos"

World of Wonders

By Tony Gloeggler

These days, riding the city bus
is Jesse's favorite activity.
Even if he ends up getting
a Ben and Jerry's brownie
and two slices of Ken's pizza
where he eats the cheese
while I munch on his crust,
it's the journey that matters.
He always sits on the same spot
of the bench, patiently waits.
Whether it's wintry and windy,
sunny and steamy, he never moves
to the shade or the glass shelter.
He loves watching cars glide by,
sliding his special pass in the slot
to pay, sitting by a window, feeling
the drum and hum beneath his feet.
Giddy sounds bubble, tumble out
of his mouth and everyone looks
at him, then quickly turns away
whenever I catch them staring.

In small cities, busses are filled
mostly with people too poor
to afford cars, old ladies muttering
nonsense through clenched teeth,
teen agers aching for their license,
cell phones clinging to their ears,
unemployed hung over guys
and broken women heading
to shelters with a toddler
or two, and Jesse and me. Today
the fattest woman I've ever seen
hauls herself onto the bus carrying
a tiny child, a folded carriage.
She plops down taking up two
and a half seats. Nearby riders
scatter to the back as if a mortar
shell just landed. She thanks them
in a voice just beyond a whisper.
I'm sorry and I know it's cruel,
but I do catch myself trying
to imagine the guy who plunged
himself into that mass of flesh?

The other riders are still sneaking
glances at Jesse and I wonder
what they would think if they knew
the whole story. They'd understand
how I once loved his mom and took
Jesse, five years old at the time,
as my own. But even close friends
can't believe I travel so far to visit,
wonder if he's my biological son,
did I get any mercy sex this time. No,
I haven't seen Helen in nearly two years.
We set up, coordinate dates and times
in emails as taut and terse as Raymond
Carver characters and I don't know why
she never wants to spend one second
with me or thank me for anything
anymore. Jesse's workers' take me
to/from the airport and in between
it's him and me for three days, and I
always give thanks for my time with him.

Back on the bus, the woman's son
bounces on her knee. Too young
to talk, his head bops and shakes
like a bobble head. His brightly lit
eyes, excited and curious, settle
on Jesse and his mouth grows
into a giggle, shows the start of two
tiny front teeth. His mom snuggles
him closer and lightly kisses the top
of his head and her skin shines
like a halo. Later, when Jesse lifts
my bags out of the trunk, starts
to walk back to the car, I ask for a hug
and he leans in, lends me his cheek
as usual. When I say, I meant a real hug,
he extends his arms straight out
like the wings of an airplane, a huge
bird anxious for flight. But before
he turns to walk away, I say no,
this time I want a squeeze. He wraps
his arms around me and I am filled
with wonder for the ten whole
seconds he can stand to hold me.

Article © Tony Gloeggler. All rights reserved.
Published on 2016-04-11
Image(s) are public domain.
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