The deaf kid in line ahead of us rocked like a metronome. Maybe he ticked like a metronome too, but I was too busy counting out the money to notice. When I finished, I did notice the skinny black kid next to him, the kid with the crooked Yankee hat. The deaf kid stared at the black kid’s mouth. My girl and I both stared at the deaf kid staring at the black kid’s mouth. The clerk behind the counter, this girl in a starched blue shirt, she stared too. We all had huge eyes that we tried and failed to hide.
“Tell her where you’re going, Bobby,” said the black kid to the deaf kid.
“Don’t look at me. She’s the one talking to you.”
“Roundtrip to Port Authority,” said the deaf kid. The words were buried beneath a pillow, but they worked. The clerk nodded. The deaf kid paid then stepped aside, rocking. The black kid bought a ticket too.
“Two roundtrip tickets to Port Authority,” I said. The girl clerk blushed. I’m not sure why. It made me blush too, and it made her blush—the girl at my side. I pinched her ass and she bit her lip.
We sat at the back of the bus by the bathroom. The black kid and the deaf kid sat across from us and one row up. The deaf kid sat in the aisle seat. He stared and rocked. The black kid put on headphones. He closed his eyes and rocked.
She read from Springfield to Hartford. I ate chocolate and watched the traffic, felt the hum of the bus. The vibration excited me. I tugged her sleeve.
“Come to the bathroom with me.”
“There’s no one on the bus. No one will care.”
I leaned back in my seat, defeated. The deaf kid was smiling back at me. I stuck out my bottom lip, wondering. Later, when she went to the bathroom, the deaf kid reached across the aisle and tapped my knee.
“You’re lucky,” he said.
I nodded. Then I told him to mind his business. His face swallowed itself. When she came back, I told her we were going to move. She shrugged. We sat in the middle of the bus. The driver played a movie from Hartford to New York. I put my jacket over my lap and asked if she’d mind. She said she wouldn’t, that it was better now, safer. Things were going just fine until the deaf kid starting singing. The notes were crooked, awkward. They bullied their way up the aisle and rattled at our shoulders. I imagined the deaf kid rocking as he sang, clinging himself sad, the black kid beside him plugged and indifferent.
When I melted in her hand, she went back to her book. I turned in my seat to get a look at the deaf kid, his mouth all big and bent. He saw me looking. He smiled again, but this time it was different.