Genevieve Abravanel ~ a city block

Marcus swipes right. Thumb against crys­tal, that pres­sure. He’s look­ing for a woman. He’s fast. He clicks, he winks, he sends.

The bus stops at a light. No one looks up. Only the dri­ver looks, because she is for­bid­den to use her phone.

Jane R. is tex­ting slow­ly. It’s all com­ing so slow­ly. She needs the right words and every time, there’s a choice between the offered ones and those lodged in her chest. She’s sit­ting next to Marcus. He’s look­ing for a woman, but he does not look at Jane R.

If he did, he would see her eyes are watery. She’s think­ing about her hus­band. She found those texts. He nev­er sent her texts like that. He loved her before there were texts every­where, before that was the only way to love.

She wavers. She wants him to text her all the same words he sent to Carmen, but she also doesn’t. She wants words just for her. She types, hel­lo. She types, Micah. Autocorrect sug­gests Michael, but that is not her husband’s name.

Marcus swipes. He’s pick­ing up speed. It’s such a rush. All these girls.

Across the aisle Lindsay reads a text from her moth­er. It’s mis­spelled, which is hard to do these days, but her moth­er man­ages, doesn’t she?

Jane R. eras­es the words she’s writ­ten. She types hel­lo, hes­i­tates. Hovers. The pro­gram offers to look up the word. What does hel­lo even mean? Really, what? She half-laughs but Marcus doesn’t look up.

Lindsay gets a mes­sage from her bestie. The ding is loud. The guy next to her has buds in. He’s sleep­ing. He’s the only one not on his phone. Her bestie wants donuts. Her bestie saw a hot guy at Dunkins. Like real­ly hot. Really smokin flame emo­ji hot. She snapped a blur­ry pho­to of the back of his head.

Hot Lindsay writes back.

Jane R. shakes her head. She’s cry­ing on the bus, here with all these peo­ple. It’s ter­ri­ble, shame­ful, but thank God, no one looks up.

In the back cor­ner, Maryanne receives a text. It’s Jane L. They’re break­ing up. It’s been hap­pen­ing for a while and it’s hap­pen­ing now and Jane L. is sor­ry and Jane L. has been think­ing and Jane L. needs some time. Maryanne hates to sob in pub­lic so she watch­es a cat video on repeat, kit­tens tum­bling out of someone’s striped mix­ing bowl.

The bus slams over a pot hole. Marcus gets a wink from Ashley Z. Yeah. This is hap­pen­ing tonight.

The bus has not yet gone a block. The dri­ver, Juicy T., has had it. She used to like dri­ving. Years ago, when she was in her thir­ties, some­one would take that seat across from the driver’s and talk. Everything and noth­ing. Now that seems impos­si­ble. She’s pent up with a need to tell some­one about the weath­er, the traf­fic, the new con­struc­tion on Ninth.

She can’t even check her phone. Beneath the roar of traf­fic, dings.

Ralph C. admires a pic­ture of his new­born son, sent by his sleep­less wife.

Lindsay con­sid­ers the hot­ness of the hot guy’s shoul­der tat, splayed over an unknown mus­cle. She sends her bestie goo­gly eyes. She sends a thumbs up.

Jane R. fin­ish­es her mes­sage. She couldn’t find the right words. Her words, these words, they may have just end­ed her marriage.

The bus stops at a light. No one looks up.

Genevieve Abravanel’s short fic­tion is avail­able or forth­com­ing in American Short Fiction, The Missouri Review, Story, Chicago Quarterly Review, Ecotone, and else­where. She has pub­lished a schol­ar­ly book with Oxford University Press (Chinese trans­la­tion with The Commercial Press of Beijing) and received sup­port from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Association of University Women. She teach­es English in Lancaster, PA, where she lives with her fam­i­ly, and is cur­rent­ly work­ing on a novel.