I saw her and my body turned upside down, feet hammered through with nails, impaled into some invisible ceiling, my blood defying gravity and pulsing with vigor at my temples and throughout my arms and hands. I could just feel my face brightening, as if embarrassed without reason. Though no one seemed to notice. Everyone else continued on, purposeful, ignorant of me.
But, oh, the way she walked! A timeless sway that defined only the most graceful of beauties, the most illustrious of queens, the pinnacle of godly flawlessness. I stood there at standstill among the moving ocean of bodies as they flowed across the crosswalk. Her smile drew me in. It was exquisite, Aphrodite incarnate, a beacon and a lighthouse rising high above the cold, bitter desolation that had become my life. It shot warmth like bullets towards me and they entered my skin as broken slivers of shrapnel, crawling through me, racing towards my heart and then stopping it in mid-thump to hang there suspended in awe and sudden immobility, the rest of my poor insides left confused. How could I have missed this before? Where had she come from?
A yellowed school bus slowly barreled up to the driveway, like an impending tank with its gun aimed point-blank at my flushed face. It crept around the corner, ominously overtaking my view of her, and then she was gone, hidden behind that bus and the others that sequentially rolled into place after it. I shifted through the thick of the crowd to the street and waited some more.
"Move, bus. Move."
Time became a gooped liquid around me. My mouth slowed and syllables blurred together as I spoke to the great bus beasts.
"I implore you. Move."
Some wormhole of space-time had enveloped me and decelerated my movements to match the empty air that held my stopped heart. The world had paused slightly, a mere hiccup, perfectly timed for this great moment.
And then the buses moved. Belching stormclouds of spent diesel, they crawled together as a herd, rounding the median fence onto the narrow street and rumbling off into the distance. An empty trampled patch of grass lay nestled against the protruding tree roots where she last stood. I glanced at the rear window of the last bus as it shook and swayed and made a right-hand turn, hoping to see her delicate palm pressed against it and her gentle eyes fixated on me. There was nothing there.
A whispering breeze teased my ears and spoke with hushed cruelty.
"She is gone," it breathed.
"Bah." My trumped-up indifference was as transparent as worn-out lingerie. Mocking me with its quiet laughter, the wind dissipated and left once again only a barren wasteland. An empty street, a quiet schoolyard, a lone void of a heart that had stopped and would remain that way, now, always, for eternity.
I'd have cried if I could've. But for the fear of others watching me, and probable retribution, I kicked a pebble at the stairs and started the long walk home, past the stoplight and the overpass and the old bus stop on 24th.