The 43

“I’ve never even met her.”

“What? Why does that even matter? She’s into you. Dude just fucking chill.”

“Are you serious? Honestly, I can’t even believe you told her I was into her. I mean, I’m not really, I just said she looked cute. She’s not even that cute. There are plenty of girls hotter than her.” Laughing, Ben responds, “I fucking knew you liked her. You bastard.”

“Shut up, man. Is it just going to be me and her? I fucking hate first dates. At least we didn’t meet on one of those dumb ass dating site like Okcupid. Those are such bullshit.”

Ben looks at me grinning, “like you have room to talk, you’ve been single for 3 goddam years and this is your first real date in months.”

I light a cigarette and inhale. I feel the tobacco buzz coming on. I’ve just started smoking again and Ben thinks I’m just doing it so girls will think I’m reckless. “Yeah?” I respond, “well at least I’m not married like your whipped ass.” After a few seconds we catch each other’s eye and burst out laughing. Neither Ben nor I have been in a relationship for years. We’ve probably seen each other naked more times than we’ve seen a woman naked in the last couple years.

We cross Stafford and Main to wait for the bus. Its just us standing there. Its cold out. Mid-January in Cliff can be rough. Its no Minnesota or Wisconsin but every once in a while the wind from the lake comes down and give us a beating. Its steady, not gusty. As per usual I forgot my damn scarf and am trying to find warmth in my windbreaker collar. Ben, dressed like a Portland yuppy in his pee-coat, Frank and Oak scarf and poly-whatever-the-hell-ear muffs notices I’m freezing my ass off and begins to berate me as usual, “I told you to wear a hat, you knew it was windy out. Seriously, man why don’t you just wear a damn hat or something? I know you have one, cause you stole the one I got for Christmas last year.”

I’ve never been good at admitting I’m wrong, especially not to Ben who is mister fucking-know-it-all. “I’m not cold I say” pulling my neck out of the top of my windbreaker like a turtle popping up to catch a passing meal. I immediately regret my decision as I feel the cold Erie wind whip against my neck causing the hair on the back of my neck to stand and shivers to run up and down my spine.

I bring the Newport to my mouth again. Ben shakes his head and steps out on the curb to wave down the 43 as it barrels down Main towards us lurching up and down breaks screeching. I take one last drag and flick the cigarette to the curb. The 43 stops in front of us hissing as the hydraulics exhale. The doors open and two elderly women brush past us: one of them is still in her Kroger cashier blue vest. “Fuck, I couldn’t do that shit, not till 10” I think to myself as I follow Ben onto the bus. He swipes his card and heads to the row of hard plastic empty seats at the end of the bus. I rummage in my pocket for my card, no luck. “Ben!” I shout, “I forgot my card, can you spot me?” The bus driver, a middle aged slim man with a thick brown mustache gives me an exhausted look as we wait for Ben to walk back and swipe me in. “Thanks man, I’ll get you back next time” I say under my breathe as I follow him back to our usual seats.

We sit down, Ben sticks in his ear buds and closes his eyes. I rest my foot on the yellow metal railing in front of me and slouch back, the 43 takes forever but it sure beats the hell out of walking.

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