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Saturday, Dec. 02, 2006 - 7:29 a.m.

There she is, alone, lit by the sunlight falling on the pages of the novel open across her lap. She is probably very pretty. Her head is lowered as she reads, so that one never sees her full face, but can only meet the brief, upward curl of her eyelashes. This inability to see her face and the anonymity of her novel makes her a mystery. Who is this incandescent girl, reading her unknown book at the back of the bus?

Her school uniform is unbuttoned. The centre of her (beige) bra can be seen. It has been a hot day. And if the man had been any younger, or older, he would have continued to undress her mentally, until only his desperation was left. But he is at that age when he can no longer bear to open the books of poetry that he has accumulated on his bookshelf. Life has not turned out badly for him, but it is the year of picking up a novel from a bookstore, reading the first and last lines, and proclaiming the book, like the possibilities in his life - finished.

This seventeen year old girl made him see, when he boarded the bus twenty minutes ago, that he only had the rest of his life left. The bare skin of her sternum was not cluttered by necklaces, or religious chains, her fingers were not bound by rings from boyfriends; she was free from the accoutrements of mistakes, while he was an accumulation of them.

He watches her from his bus-stop as the bus pulls away. Her head is still lowered, reading from her novel. A life of infinite possibility is pulling away. Her days of jubilations and of pain-smeared mascara are still to come. The world will offer her everything, before it offers her nothing. As the man starts to walk home, a flock of black birds circle the sky, and he thanks her for his clarity. Someone will love her or break her heart, in the exact way that I would, but it will not be me.

The bus passes a row of trees which break up the angled afternoon light, and alternating patterns of light and shadow flit across her face.


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