Missed Conceptions

He waited for her like a dry vine waits for the touch of water. His eyes lit up like the element beneath a burning pot as he leaned forwards on his seat, knees pressed up to the back of the one before him, focused intently upon the shifting doors of the bus. Every moment without her passed like some agonising torture, seconds grinding down on one another, more life lost without her at his side. He squeezed his eyes shut and hoped that, when he opened them, she would be standing in front of him.

When she arrived, it was all he could do to keep his mouth closed and his heart stuffed inside. A smile. A glimpse. Her eyes danced lithely over his, but he could never tell if this meant he had been noticed. After all, she was so wonderfully polite that she seemed to notice everybody on the bus equally; to pay them all the same attention. He breathed in sharply as she sat down, flicking a strand of wheat-golden hair behind her shoulder and arranged her skirt with such natural grace, such eloquence expressed in the refined dance of taking a seat on a moving vehicle. The streets whirled away, grey, bland. Only the darkly framed beacons of her eyes, the perfect blossoms in both cheeks, and the divine curves of her lips, possessed any colour.

In winter, mist pressed tightly about the bus, while inside, the ragged eyes closed and noses sought refuge amid woollen folds. She chose one of these times to place herself next to him, bringing with her a tingling sense of cold that ran a complex relay through his nerves. Her music strayed from the silver and white earplugs lodged in her petite ears. It reached out to him- a sign, perhaps. Briefly, her head turned, meeting glass and the infinite particles of moisture that were trapped on it, the reflections they shone off each other reaching into eternity.

"Hey." He tried to make the word casual. It escaped, nonetheless, like a tiny, creeping thing, so pathetic he could not imagine it reaching her mind.

"Oh." She sounded surprised. The voice, one he had never heard before, flowed away out of her honey mouth and sank like a mirage into memory. "Uh… hello."

"What are you listening to?"

A half-smile flickered over her face like a lick of flame. "Metallica," she responded. A hand went to her throat. "Or System of a Down… I'm not paying too much attention."

His mind raced away before he could reign it in, attempting to unscramble the connotations such a statement might have. Another whimper, another crackle in place of his manly voice. "Ah. I can see you like rock music."

"No." Her eyes passed through his, a bubble of mirth exploding into tiny rivulets of champagne laughter. "God. Yeah. Yeah, most of what I listen to is rock. You?"

Such sophistication. "I like… um…" What did he like? He had no recollection. It had faded away in a white-out of adoration. "James Blunt?" His furtive gaze sought her approval. When he found only the narrow submersion of contempt in her nose, he hurried to correct himself. "But I like… you know… hip hop. Like uh… you know."

"Okay." She even made that word sound like a blessing. But anyone who could make a uniform as sleek and appealing as a swimsuit could surely infuse simple sounds with delight. Her jaw-line was cast into silhouette as she turned away, a whisper of the Belle Époque.

The question erupted from his lips like a heated rush of vomit and spilled on the floor, seemingly uncaring of his mind's futile pleas. "Do you have a boyfriend?"

"Oh." He thought he could see a wince, a flinch, a grimace. It was the smile. That Smile. "Um… look…"

"It's all right."

"No. No it's really not. Listen." He could do nothing but listen when she spoke. "I don't have a… boyfriend as such." Her eyes swam in her face and she could not spear them with his gaze. "I have a girlfriend. I'm gay."

So cool, so calm, so biting. She pushed the headphone she had removed back into her ear. The unromantic click of the ipod menu, as much as the sudden tinny roar of guitars, told him that she had turned up the volume to cancel him out. He looked down. It wasn't so bad. It couldn't possibly be: she wasn't attractive. Her hair was as dull as the buildings outside, her eyes just as appealing as the mud puddles with which they shared a shade. That uniform sat on her like a sack and drained much-needed colour from her wan features.

The bus stopped and she disembarked first, dropping to the cement in one unenthusiastic roll. From her face, nothing could be drawn but a long distaste for mornings. She hobbled away towards the station. He wondered why he had ever paid her attention. It was obvious, after all, that she was not going to pay him any heed.

"Um… bye." Her farewell was the howl of nine thousand flayed horses. "Sorry."

"Nothing to be sorry about." His own grin was closed. Closed because of the bile pressed against his tongue. It was all he could do to keep the dismay- or was it disgust- concealed behind a wall of white teeth. "See you."

No he wouldn't.

He stayed in the bus, staring at the icy metal standing before his knees. As if he would ever like someone like her. She was ugly, and probably stupid and she had bad taste in music and, in any case, there was no way he would ever fall for a lesbian.