Emmalee Hagarman Overnight Bus, Columbus, OH to Chinatown, NY

Dim blue lights above each person’s seat

make it easier to imagine that they


were once a child. Softens them,

even before sleep. Even the man sitting


by the bathroom who had circled

me three times at the bar beside


the bus stop, watching me drink.

The driver tells a woman to stop talking


so loud on the phone, and she yells, I’m

a grown-ass woman. Once fluorescent lights


shut off, she quiets all the same.

A man falls asleep leaning his head


against the seat in front of him,

the woman in that seat sleeping too,


neither knowing their heads

almost touch. Tonight’s the super


moon and I am the only passenger

it keeps awake. Sam sleeps


in the seat beside me. I’ll never

get used to holding the hand


of a man who hasn’t hurt

me. Or, that any time he stirs


and doesn’t remember where he is,

my face is the thing that grounds


him. He doesn’t look anything like his

baby pictures. Every gas station


and truck stop is the same kind

of empty. The old man snoring


three rows back sounds like my

father. It scares me that the person


I call when I’m afraid calls me

when he’s afraid. Last month, the room


was dark except for the TV

when Sam whispered doctor’s


appointment and found a lump, then

not sure when I asked if he


would be okay. People call him

old soul when they notice


his hair. He started going gray

when he was nine. When the bus pulls


over, the fluorescent lights turn

on and more people get on. A woman


shouts to the driver, He’s scaring me,

and the driver shouts, Stop


shouting. The lights shut out, the bus

jerks forward, and everyone falls silent,


Sam’s body turning to shield me

from every unseen thing while


we sleep. In certain light, strands

of his hair look nearly white.


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