Katie Dumps Travis on the Bus: A California Story

It was their second or fourth date. They ate tacos and drank beer and talked until eleven and then walked to the corner. Travis wanted to take a cab. But they were expensive and none were in sight and Katie hated cabs so they waited for the bus. It wasn’t a long wait, maybe thirty minutes, but they made out the whole time and Travis was sorry and excited when he heard the bus wheezing itself towards the stop. Holding hands, they climbed aboard the brightly-lit thing, paid their fare, and walked to the back.

Travis sat next to the window and Katie sat next to him, her arms through his, her head on his shoulder. He liked the smell of her hair—lemon and cigar and leather—and he liked her crossed legs sheathed in a black skirt stretching to the floor and he liked that she was going home with him to watch TV and to kiss and to…. But he didn’t want to get ahead of himself.

They talked idly about politics and philosophy and the bus stopped and started, jerked and turned, his stop twenty minutes away. The sky began to rain.

Two weeks earlier he was at a Halloween party. He went as a Civil War zombie—all bushy beard and blood-stained teeth and mud-hardened cavalry trousers—and stood in the corner of some stranger’s apartment drinking PBR while watching for his friend who had apparently abandoned him. And there she was in front of him, dripping silver funnel strapped to her silver head, her thin body encased in an industrial-sized cardboard tube spray-painted silver.

“Hello, soldier,” she said, offering him a can of beer. “I can feel safe here because I’m made of tin and have no brain.”

“Thanks,” he said, taking the beer. “But I think it was Scarecrow who had no brain.”

She looked at him. He rolled his shoulders slightly and his eyes danced all around her head.

“You don’t look like you’re having much fun,” she said.

“What?” he said. “Oh. No, I’m having fun.”


“Yeah,” he said. “It’s just that I lost my friend and I don’t really know anyone here.”

“Oh.” She tossed the beer in her right hand to the left one. “I’m Katie.”

He took her hand. It was gentle and warm and tickled his wrist. “Travis.”

“There,” she said, keeping his hand. “Now you know me. So quit frowning.”

“Okay.” He smiled.

“Or should I go get you some whiskey?”

“Four more stops,” he said. The rain had slowed to a trickle and Katie sighed and wiggled herself closer to him.

“Look at those two over there,” she said, pointing with her chin across the aisle. Those-two-over-there had the heavy intimacy of the too long-term couple, they didn’t look at, talk to, or touch each other. The phones in their hands the only thing they saw, the earbuds in their ears the only thing they heard.

“Are they’re texting each other?” Travis asked.

“Maybe,” Katie said. “Or maybe they’re trading stocks.”

“No,” he said and laughed. “Too late for that. It’s dark already. Or can you trade stocks all night now?”

“Maybe they’re trading on the Tokyo exchange,” she said.

He pulled the cord to stop the bus. “Maybe they’re on eharmony looking for new lovers.”

She laughed so hard she had to sit up and cough into her hand.

They stumbled out into the misty rain. “It’s another four blocks,” he said. “Uphill.” He reached into his pocket. “Do you want to smoke this joint?”

“Why, Mister Travis,” she said, stopping to look up the hill. “I think I’m going to like you very much.”


Oh those halcyon days, when everything is shiny and new and anything is possible. When you both have so many new things to discover.

When you sit in the park watching the fat and yellow moon rise over the skyline, feeding each other wine and cheese with your fingers and tounges. When you feel the cold Pacific fog pressing through you but you’re warm because she’s there next to you shivering and you hold her close and whisper Let’s go home into her beautiful and perfect ear.

And then it’s six months later and you’re arguing about who’s supposed to pay for this Pad Thai and Pepsi. And you haven’t seen her naked for four days.


One night late in February, after one of their more successful attempts at making love, she told him, “I’ll never say I love you after sex.”

“Oh,” he said.

He had declared his love for her a month earlier and Katie had cried slightly and told him that she loved him too. Loved him very much.

“It’s a biological trick, to make a woman feel love after sex,” she said. “Something about protecting children.”

They stared at the ceiling, watching the candlelight dance in the cobwebs. He wanted to tell her how much he loved her, but he worried it was a biological trick. As the candle burned down he asked, “But you do love me?”

She turned and looked at him, stroked his cheek. “Of course I love you,” she said. She smiled, her teeth white and wet. Then she turned over and fell into a deep sleep.


And now, on the bus heading downtown. Looking out the window, Travis watches the city drop towards the bay. Katie sits next to him, eyes and hands attached to her phone. She’s typing out a message. The seat is hard and the bus is slow and Travis takes the phone out of his pocket, pulls up a game of solitaire. He’s just about to win when the phone vibrates in his hands.

One new message. He pushes the button to read it.

“I’m sorry,” it says. “I love you and wish this would work out. But it’s not working out.”

She reaches across and pulls the cord to stop the bus.

“What are you doing?” he asks.

The phone vibrates again in his hands.


The bus opens. She hurries out and into the throng and she is gone.

“Please don’t follow.”

The phone vibrates and vibrates.

“I’m so sorry.”

And the bus, always, lurching forward.

One Response

  1. Very nice. Your storytelling is vividly done.

    Don j - November 18th, 2010 at 2:50 am