The inside of the bus smelled like gasoline. I noticed as soon as I walked on. The smell — coupled with a hot and humid morning in Boston — immediately made me nauseous. I could see the same feeling in so many of the other passengers. Their eyes showed the same physical discomfort and nausea, as many of them fanned their faces with the morning papers and magazines they brought to read during the ride.
Just a few stops after I boarded, the bus stopped to pick up a middle-aged black woman in a wheelchair. There was a plastic cast wrapped around her right leg, which was propped up straight at the knee. Her complexion looked sick and hollow, and she had heavy bags under her eyes. Her hair was full of a heavy oil, and was held back from her face by two large purple clips. She looked weathered by late nights of drinking. She warranted disgust more than pity.
She was accompanied by another woman, a docile and quiet woman who wore a feeling of guilt or shame. This second woman pushed the chair and carried bags.
After her wheelchair was buckled in, the woman told the bus driver her destination, a liquor store a short way up the road. She then began making small talk with another man on the bus just a few seats away, apparently someone she already knew.
“It’s a hellified world we livin’,” she cackled. Her words were hard to understand, but loud enough to fill the whole bus, as though she were talking to all of us.
The man she addressed only chuckled.
Between the nausea I felt from the gas fumes and wet heat that filled the bus, and the real disgust I felt for this woman, I was more than eager for my ride to end.