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winter bus ride

The sunlight gleams on the dirt-streaked bus window.

The vinyl seat across the aisle glows.

We flash past the snow and cattails. The fields and trees, the metal guard rails and concrete walls.

Soon it will be dark, the way afternoons in winter tend to be.

I am seeing the white lines on the highway, the white salt between the white lines. I am looking at the tangles and triumphs of naked tree branches.

I am dazzled by the starlings overhead; how do they fly in such cold?

We are all on this bus together, some hundred strangers and me. The overpass blocks the sun for a moment.

The light blasts the heads in front of me. Surely at least five rows of scalps are saturated in gold, mine included.

The lump springs into my throat. This happens sometimes, usually when I am quiet. It’s enough to make me want never to be quiet, but I know better.

The lump says hello again. It says, look how quickly you are passing by all of it. The street signs with their earnest instructions. The big parking lot filled with blue dump trucks and flatbeds. The graveyard. The dwindling twilight.

None of this will happen again. I look up from my work and remember.