I was standing near the bus stop one Tuesday night on Colonial Avenue. Here in Lima Peru it doesn’t rain as heavy as in other countries, but still a continuous drizzle had been falling for a few hours, covering the roads, the sidewalks, and every single soul outside in the cold that night. Umbrellas are not a thing that people carry with themselves here, so we were all simultaneously getting fucked by nature while waiting for the bus that would take us to another place where other things usually fucked us as well. Like bills that are past due, busted plumbing, finding out someone broke into your room and took your dog, no wine, no coffee, stale bread, an unfulfilling and leprous monotony that gets under your fingernails the moment you open the door, or sitting alone by the edge of the bed reading a note from your wife saying she took the kids, the cat, the money under the mattress, and that some asshole with a better degree than yours promised her a better future.
“Gianni, is that you?” I heard someone say behind me. I turned.
“Liz” I said staring into her green eyes.
“I need fifty bucks” she said looking at the ground and then at me.
“Me too” I said still staring at her.
“Please, Gianni. I’m not using anymore. I swear” she said.
“Leave me alone, Liz” I said and turned away from her.
“NO, please, you have to listen to me!” she said getting in front of me now.
She was trying not to cry. Her eyes were green and beautiful but they had sunk deep into their sockets giving her the look of the dying woman she was. I was talking to the dead. Her chest too had sunk, her ribs showed under the thin t-shirt she was wearing, and there were track marks that she failed to conceal on both of her arms. Her once almost perfect set of white teeth had disappeared alongside better times, and the remaining ones were yellow and caked with tar. All hope had fallen from her like a scab, leaving behind just a thicker layer of pain. She was shivering, and everyone was looking at us. A few people took some steps away as if scared, or repulsed. Most likely both.
I took off my jacket and gave it to her. She put it on.
“Take me to your place” she said.
“I’m not taking you anywhere” I said back to her.
“I told you I’m not using anymore. Don’t be such an ass. Please, it’ll be like the old times”
Then I saw the bus was approaching and the people started to line up. I got in the line as well, with Liz trailing next to me. She put her hands inside the pockets of the jacket.
“It was time this fucker arrived” said some random person in the line.
Voices started to rise up around us as some people continued the chain of complaints, others laughed, most of them shivered. I was shivering too now that she had my jacket on.
(There’s your fifty bucks) I thought.
Finally the bus made a stop, the people cheered; Liz clawed at my arm and kept following my eyes with hers. In almost no time I found myself at the bus’ door, and shook Liz’s hand off my arm.
“Please” she said softly.
I looked around as if searching for help in one of the many eyes that were now staring at me with increasing hostility because I wasn’t getting in the bus, and they were freezing outside.
“Hey! Walk the fuck in already!” yelled a man from somewhere down the line.
“Gianni…” said Liz
“It’s never going to be like the old times, Liz” I said, and walked in leaving her behind.
Soon after the rest of the impatient travelers began their path into the bus, pouring in and pushing her out of the door, rubbing their hands as they looked for an empty seat.
There were none.
We were all standing inside now, holding onto the yellow pole above our heads, and waiting for the last passengers to get in and the doors to close.
“The fuck was that all about, man?” said some guy next to me who had clearly witnessed my whole ordeal of waiting in line and then jumping into the bus, leaving the skeleton looking addict behind.
“It’s nothing” I said.
I tried seeing her through the window, but the drizzle had muffled everything and made it impossible for anything to be distinguished on the outside. For a moment I felt bad for her. For the things that happened to the both of us along the way and what had happened to all of our friends from school. Nothing had turned out the way we had wanted it to. Not the smallest particle of our childhood dreams had seen fruition. Adulthood had arrived at our doors dragging addictions, suicide, cancer, cheating, loneliness, madness, a sense of euphoria that always lead to nowhere, job fairs, and a cornucopia teeming with nightmares perfectly crafted for each one of us.
When both Liz and I were nine years old and went to school, we would sit at the back of the classroom, on the floor, during our 10 AM breaks. Sometimes when nobody was watching us we would hold hands and make promises to each other.
“Ugh. I got apple slices again” she would say opening her lunchbox.
“I got a ham and cheese sandwich” I would tell her opening mine.
“Yeah… right, Liz….”
I didn’t go to the funeral.
It was after a few months following her death that I heard, through a friend of ours, that the one she had been fucking behind my back, and sticking her with needles, hadn’t shown up either.
Bio: Giovanni Mangiante, born on March 17th, 1996, is a bi-lingual writer from Lima, Peru. He has work published in The Anti-Languorous Project, Dream Noir, The Rye Whiskey Review, and has upcoming poems in Down in the Dirt. He’s currently working on a chapbook he plans to self-publish in 2020. In writing he found a way to cope with Borderline Personality Disorder. He used to be an EFL teacher.