“The Bus Part V”

By Anna Harberger

Two car rides, eleven Metro stops, and a few blocks later, the three girls arrived in the downtown manufacturing district of Los Angeles. It was 9:27 pm and Heather led the way. Her perfectly black (box dyed) hair swayed with a swift grace as their way to 6th. It was at least 10 degrees colder in this part of town, at this time of night.

Frances was already embarrassed. Cleo and her skirt’s were too short, their tights overly ripped, they were wearing too much makeup. Heather’s detached sense of security here and everywhere was entirely foreign to the girls, a sensation, an aura that they found so unique. Frances was unsure if this was a product of their geographical isolation. Many years later she understood that it was not.

The show took place on the fifth floor of an abandoned warehouse. Walking slowly past the loitering underaged smokers, the girls entered a corridor that smelled equal parts of urine, tobacco, and marijuana. Soon, they were to make their way up several flights of stairs. They would’ve taken the elevator, but it was stuck on the bottom floor, both silver doors wide open. Inside sat a group of three emaciated looking people passing around some kind of piece of metal. There were two pale boys in white t shirts and black work pants whose dark gelled hair that made them look twisted greasers of the 50s. The young girl with them seemed to be uncomfortable, a small frown plastered on her face. Frances continued to think about this girl and her cloudy green eyes as they ascended up the metal stairs.

Frances felt scared and excited. Mostly excited, but also scared.

By the fifth flight, the girls were out of breath when they entered the space. Within moments, Frances was transported. This new world was existed within a cloud of grey smoke. The deep reds and magenta of the room, and dark, dissonant beats of the DJ booth pounded on to Frances’ psyche as a stop motion film. This was only intensified by the white strobe lights. Off and on. On and Off. Again, again, again, again.

Heather was gone now. Frances spotted her leaning flirtatiously against the left side of the room, suspiciously close to a wide opening of a window. Cleo was gone, too, She shoved her way into the center of a growing mosh pit. The breeze felt cool like water as Frances moved cautiously toward the side of the room.

Nothing seemed to fall into place like Frances assumed it would. The girls and the boys wore a uniform, like the girls at Sacred Heart did. Their costumes, however clownishly gaudy, however freakish or weird they attempted to be, were the same. Overcome by the sentiment, Frances only felt right to retreat to the biting cold outside.

Stumbling down the five flights, Frances rolled into the street. Standing in-between an overcomplicated parking directional sign and unloading zone, Frances’ breath quivered and felt hot against her bare chest. She closed her eyes for 1...2...3 seconds and then opened them at once, as if she came to some shadowy conclusion.

Frances spent the remainder of the night talking to strangers and pretending to inhale her first drag of a Marlboro Red, like Heather and Cleo did. Dissatisfaction, discomfort, sensations of being alone filled the room, moist with sweat, spit, and bodies.

By 1:30 ante meridian, Frances was back on the bus. Cleo and Frances sat on separate rows of blue carpeted seats. There, Frances forehead pressed against the glass of the window again. Her heart beat faster and then slowed to a gentle lull as fog filled the glass.