Every morning I ride the bus. Every morning I mask my emotions and hope my clothes mask my body. Every morning I spend an hour not looking at the pictures of naked women, or at the men looking at the pictures. I stare out the window. Women in trench coats and head coverings, boys in skinny jeans, girls in tube tops, men in suits. We pass the mall. I wish I was on the other side of the bus. I don’t want to see the half-naked women, twenty times life-size, plastered on the wall. I don’t want to see men looking at the half-naked women.
One morning a woman gets on the bus. A foreigner. I can tell by her eye color and by the way she carries herself. She is not a silent, mask-faced woman. She stops a row ahead of me, by a man. She doesn’t mind that his eyes are fixed on the naked women of the newspaper. She flaunts herself, touches him, tosses her head.
She’s old. No, not old. She’s worn, tired, lonely, dead inside. I mask my life; she masks her death.
I stare out the window. Children in school uniforms, babies in mother arms, men in police clothes. I hear her voice. Russian, I think. She has distracted the man from the paper bodies. Her broken Turkish is loud, strange in this place of public silence.
I glance over. I see her desperate. I see the man hooked.
She looks cold. If only I could offer her some tea, some warmth, some rest.
I stare out the window. Grey buildings, grey streets, grey clothes. I don’t dare remove my mask. Most of the men remain absorbed in their paper women. A few look up, look at her, look past me. As long as they look past me, I am safe. I too am a foreigner. I do not want their attention.
I hear her get up, hear her cajole the man. Out the window I see the red light district.
She walks to the front of the bus. For a moment I think the man will stay, will go back to his paper, will go to his work. Then I see him stand and follow her.
Every morning I ride the bus.