A woman waiting for a bus meets a strange man.
|“I've got a blue spider in my neck,” Boris whispered for a third time. He was practicing the line. This was his first assignment, and his English was so poor, he didn’t trust it. The alley where he waited was dark and smelled of urine and rancid meat and many other much worse things he had grown up with at his uncle's pig farm in Progue. He looked at his watch to confirm once again how slowly time can pass and risked another quick peek around the corner to the street. A blond-haired woman with a hardcover book was just now sitting down at the well-lighted glass bus stop, supposedly there waiting for a bus. The sight of her awoke a million butterflies in his stomach.
I can do this, Boris told himself. All he had to do was sit down next to the woman and say, “I've got a blue spider in my neck,” then wait for her response — “Blue spiders are rare.”
The moment he heard this, Boris was to jab a hypodermic needle into the side of her neck and walk away calmly and without hurry. Well, no, first try to keep her upright on the bench, then walk away calmly and without hurry. Get on the subway two blocks up Lexington and go back to the airport of LaGuardia.
He checked his watch again. It was still two minutes to midnight. “I've got a blue spider in my neck,” he whispered. “A blue spider, a blue spider, a blue spider.”
At exactly midnight Boris removed the hypodermic needle from his coat pocket and stepped out from the shadows of the foul smelling alley. He stood for a moment in the bright lights at the corner of Amhurst and Fifth Street where he situated the needle just so behind his left wrist and then proceeded to the bus stop where he sat himself down next to the blond woman with the hardcover book on her lap. He leaned slightly toward her. “I've got a blue spider in my neck,” he said and held his breath as he waited for the correct response.
Unfortunately, there was no response. The girl stared straight ahead like he wasn’t there.
Boris took a calming breath and tried again. “I've got a blue spider in my neck,” he said, speaking through the right side of his mouth.
The young woman turned her head with obvious reluctance, looked boldly back at the young man, at the firm jaw of his cleanly shaven face. She stared him in the eyes, a long, cold, appraising look. She was aware of how close he sat and that he smelled of bay leaves like her grandfather. The moment she turned away, Boris turned away as well.
There was something very wrong here. This was not good. He looked at his watch. It was now a minute after midnight.
“Your name is Natasha, eez eet not?”
The girl turned to him again and her eyes latched onto his. He had beautiful brown eyes, but something was off. She thought about leaving. But he was cute. Really cute! And he looked so serious. He looked so lost…
“If perhaps you tell me, this eez now where we are, the bus stop at Amhurst and Five Street?”
“Yes, eet ezz,” the girl said, enunciating her words as carefully as the stranger did, matching his accent. She realized with amazement she was having fun with him. Usually she had nothing but the strongest desire to hide from men. She saw him swallow something tight in his throat. He looked like he was going to burst into tears.
He felt her eyes on the side of his face and looked over. When he did, she looked away again.
“I've got a blue spider in my neck!” he said, trying one more time, throwing out all the stops, all his training. This time he said it loudly and quickly and without the proper care.
The young woman smiled, then laughed out loud with genuine amusement, thinking, this guy is too much! He reminded her of somebody’s little brother. If he was trying to pick her up, he was doing a horrible job. It was both pathetic and darling.
She said, “Yeah? Well, I’ve got a red rose on my ass, pal,” and expected to see him blush.
“Sorry. Say again, please.”
“A red rose on my—never mind. I don’t, really,” she said. She looked closely at his brown eyes. She saw his eye were on her eyes, now her face, now her lips. There was no doubt in her mind this nervous young man was working up the courage to ask her out. She waited. Hoping.
Boris rubbed his face in frustration. What should he do now? What could he do? Taking his hands from his face, he stared blurry-eyed across the street. It took Boris a moment to comprehend what he was looking at. A bus stop. There was another bus stop across the street! He saw a young blond woman with a hardcover book in her hands looking back at him, shaking her head with obvious disgust. She must think him a fool! Boris felt his face redden with shame, but he was going to do his duty, he had to, he was going to go over there and face this woman before he jabbed the needle into the side of her traitorous neck. How he was ever going to work up the courage to look her in the eyes beforehand, he wasn't too sure...
The time was now! He made himself stand up. Oh, if he could only just stay here a while longer talking to this pretty American girl. He wanted to ask her name, to say goodbye, maybe promise to write her, but of course he did none of these things. He left her sitting there and rushed across the street whispering, “I've got a blue spider in my neck, I've got a blue spider in my neck” so wrapped up in what he was about to do and say, he didn’t even notice the 225 Riverside swerving to miss him.
The girl who wasn’t Natashia lost her view of the handsome young man just as her bus arrived. The doors hissed open, and she stepped onboard feeling she’d lost something precious. All the way home she thought about the young man’s eyes, his handsome face, the mysterious aura he radiated, and wondered sadly how things could have gone, had she just been a bit nicer.