She watched him make his way towards her, it was a busy street and he did a sort of quick leaping ballet walk on the balls of his feet, clutching a small duffle bag with one arm. She had been mindlessly staring at the building across the street when he appeared from the shiny mirrored door of the Karate school. The bus was late, and she paced like a caged animal behind the boy who stood hugging the bus stop pole with his free arm. When the bus finally arrived she had no choice but to line up behind him even though she had been there first.
He was a fair haired boy of about 18, with big green eyes and a spray of freckles over the bridge of his nose. He wore grey canvas basketball sneakers with the laces only done up to the ankle, with one leg crossed over the other his white gym sock clearly visible up the pant leg of his baggy jeans. His short sleeved shirt with a little alligator emblem was faded red with small black and white stripes. He sat with his head turned to look out the front window of the bus, body facing her from the middle isle facing seat.
She was dressed in a spaghetti strap top, cut-offs and cowboy boots. It was still quite warm in California for mid October and she’d been out playing video games at the arcade around the corner. She’d grabbed one of the bus maps when she got on the bus and was fanning herself with it. She was a dark haired girl of 16, a real beauty with tanned skin and blue eyes that she surrounded with far to much eyeliner. She sat across from him in an isle facing seat fanning and staring. Studying him and trying to make heads or tails. She had stood behind him at that bus stop for only just a few seconds, but it was long enough to seen the small v of hair at the nape of his neck were his shaggy locks didn’t quite reach and she’d smelled him. She’d inhaled deeply through her nose after the first whiff, he smelled of dojo and aftershave.
They road with her staring at him and him staring out the window for their entire time together on the bus. He hadn’t made an effort to stand behind her at the bus stop so he could check her out. In fact, as far as she knew he had never noticed her. She was quite furious by the time her stop arrived and though she’d rung for her stop, she stayed on the bus.
When they arrived at the station the boy grabbed his bag and bolted off the bus just as it occurred to her that if she left the bus the driver would surely punch her bus pass again when she got back on, then she’d run out of fares before the end of the week. So she watched the boy buy a soda from a machine and drink it while he faced away from the bus. She wanted to charge after him but she had to explain to the bus driver and hope he let her stay on. It didn’t take much; she just batted her eyes and played with one of the spaghetti straps on her top. She hadn’t even gotten to the why she’d missed her stop before she felt the 30-something male bus driver coil around her little finger. When she returned to her seat, she couldn’t see “Mister Dojo Smell” any more and the bus driver was babbling something at her about being on the football team in high school. The bus started to fill up with commuters and she had to sit next to a businessman who kept “accidentally” rubbing the back of his hand on her bare upper thigh.
She was late home and consequently grounded for it. A real crapper of a day with an even crappier ending. She laid in bed that night and cursed “Mister Dojo Smell”, in-between wondering what he was doing and what his name was.
Weeks passed and she obsessed over him. The memory of his face getting blurrier and her feelings getting sharper. It was the beginning of November before her two weeks restriction was up and the day it was up, school passed very slowly. In art class the boy she sat next to smelled of “Mister Dojo Smell”’s aftershave, but he had greasy blonde hair and a face like a turnip. He was busy scribbling away with a pencil when he noticed her looking at him and blushed so red he had to asked to be excused to the restroom.
After school she went to the arcade, drank 3 sodas and changed her hair style 3 times. She went back-and-forth to the ladies room, reapplying lip-gloss after each soda and realizing her hair “just wasn’t right”. The unairconditioned arcade made her feel sweaty and pent up. Her girlfriends were discussing who would make a better Mouseketeer and the group of boys that hung out with them kept asking her if she had a big date, and if it was one of them. Finally, after the longest day in her whole life, it was time to catch the bus home.
Sweaty and over excited she arrived at the bus stop 15 minutes early in an attempt to look less like a wrung out dishtowel. She found it difficult to hold still, but she had to put her arm around bus stop pole. It was the only way to force the boy to look at her. Unfortunately it also meant she had to pretend not to hear the hoops and hollers aimed at her from the men in cars passing by.
She stared at the building across the street, carefully watching the shiny mirrored door of the Karate school. The bus arrived, no “Mister Dojo Smell”. She could not risk another grounding, so she took the bus home. She followed the same procedure everyday but still no boy. Then the Thanksgiving one-week school vacation happened, during which she spent every day she could at the arcade, walking over to the bus stop and watch for him at every scheduled stop time between 10:00 am and 4:30 pm. The last being when she had to actually catch the bus home.
Weeks passed, no “Mister Dojo Smell”. Christmas happened. New Year happened. No “Mister Dojo Smell”. She thought about him constantly, she made up whole scenarios for their lives together. She day dreamed about the nape of his neck, his eyes staring into hers, how softly he’d kiss her, how he’d make up a pet name for her and take her to fancy restaurants. His first movie role, their first house and then their first mansion. He’d be a world famous Karate action hero and she would be sent endless designer dresses to wear to each of his movie premiers. They would travel the world, he adored her and she wanted for nothing. Their love kept them together and happy until she died (first of course) and he died just a day later because he could not bear live with out her.
Then in the early spring she turned 17. Jay Olson told her she was smart as well as beautiful and she cut her “Mister Dojo Smell” time down to every other waking moment. In fact, she would normally be hugging the bus stop pole and day dreaming about decorating their first child’s nursery when the bus came, but today she was thinking about Jay asking her to the school dance. Then, when the bus pulled up and the doors opened, there was “Mister Dojo Smell”.
When he stepped off the bus he was less than a few feet away from her. Her face was all pins and needles, she could barely breath and when he looked her dead in the eyes she stopped breathing altogether. He said nothing, walked past her to the curb at the back of the bus and waiting for a space in the traffic to cross over. The bus driver was waving at her and yelling “hey miss”, as she walked off to find out where this boy had been and why he wasn’t paying attention to her. She’d miss her bus, probably get grounded, maybe even for more than two weeks, but it would be totally worth it.
She approached the boy with all the fury of a woman who’d been stood up to many times. His eyes met hers again as he turned to the sound of her stomping boots aproching him. He didn’t seem to like what he saw in her eyes and placed his duffle bag in front of him, hugging it to his chest.
The second she was toe to toe with him, all her anger turned to panic and she just stood there staring at him. No words would come out. He looked scared and ready to run. She put her hands gently on either side of his duffle bag and watched his shoulders creep up around his ears. She stared wide eyed into his eyes and opened her mouth to speak. As she did, “Mister Dojo Smell” took two steps backward off the curb and was killed instantly by a passing car.