I board the bus for the 15 minute ride from Ajijic to Chapala. The bus is full and I am forced to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers in the crowded aisle. I stand out like a yogurt-covered almond in a natural food store bin of carob-coated ones. I grab the bus-long rail above me to steady myself. I look down at the seat in front of me and see a teenage boy and a girl, dressed in their clean and pressed green and white school uniforms, cuddling with each other in a quasi-Kama Sutra position.
I wonder who they are, what they are thinking, and what secrets they have. It would be so cool if I could read people’s minds, I think, as the bus bounces through a deep pothole causing me to lose my footing for moment. My head snaps back, tilting it heavenward.
As if my wish had been answered, as my gaze returns to the snuggling duo, the boy’s thoughts transfer to me. He mentally groans, Why can’t Carolina be Ricky Martin? I wish she were Ricky Martin. He is so hot. And, oh my god, his hips.
The girl’s face twitches into a Mona Lisa smile. Her thoughts dash into my head. Gael García Bernal, she thinks. Pretend Diego is Gael García Bernal. He is so cute and so mature.
My gaze jumps to an older woman sitting in back of the teens. The lines in her face, her tired eyes, and her wrinkled hands imply she is at least 75. She stares out the window. Why am I riding this rickety old bus with these common people? she thinks. I was Senorita Chihuahua in 1958. I could have been Senorita Mexico. I shouldn’t have to endure such humiliation. I chuckle. I am so much better than these peasants. Then I realize she has a light green, burrito-sized bugger dangling from her left nostril.
I look toward the back of the bus. I notice a slender, handsome man of about 50. His hair is well styled. His skin glows with freshly-applied lotion. He is wearing a turquoise western shirt with a partially see-through yoke. It is almost lacy. His copper-colored, hairless chest flirts with me through the shirt’s openings. In my head, I hear him snickering. I can’t believe I shoplifted this shirt from Victor’s Secret, he thinks. And I didn’t get caught. He laughs again. Look out, Victor’s Secret. I’m coming back and this time I’m going to steal some brief, sexy Andrew Christian underwear. The man looks down at his crotch for a moment, squirms, and looks up with irritation. Oh no, he thinks. I’ve got crabs again.
Standing in the aisle, next to the klepto-caballero is a college-age young man with royal blue ear buds in his ears. He is bobbing his head. His shoulders subtly bounce to the rhythms escaping from the blue buds. I hear them, too, quietly at first, and then I recognize the music. He is listening to Barry Manilow’s vocal version of the “American Bandstand Theme.” I just love this song, he thinks with glee. But my mariachi bandmates would disown me if they found out I’m a Fanilow.
I twist myself around a bit to see who is sitting on the other side of the bus. A slovenly, clearly overweight, colorless White woman catches my eye. I wonder if she is American or Canadian. An amused smirk appears on her face. When I slept with him in 2007, she thinks, I never dreamed he would become the 45th president of the United States.
A woman-child, perhaps 17 or 18, sits in front of the surprising Trump conquest. She cradles a baby, no more than six months old, in her arms. I wonder if Carlos saw me when he got on the bus, she thinks. I really like his turquoise shirt, especially the sexy yoke. There is a pause in her thoughts, then an abrupt change in tone. I wonder if I should introduce him to his son.
The baby, whose face is pressed against the young woman’s low-cut blouse-covered left breast, gurgles. His thoughts ask in a well-formed sentence, Has anyone ever told you that you have a nice rack, Mom?
Looking toward the front of the bus, I observe a man in the aisle, perhaps 30, wearing a grass-stained futbol jersey. He has an unshaven face, strong jawline and masculine nose. As he tightens his grip on the steel rod on the seat in front of him, he releases a belch so powerful that two shopping bags in the overhead compartment nearby fall out onto the people sitting below, scattering their contents about. Deep in thought, the man boorishly ignores his social faux-pas and the commotion it created. God, I love men’s figure skating, he thinks. It’s my favorite sport. The guys’ thick thighs, muscular calves, and firm, rounded butts are so awesome. He looks out the window. Is it wrong for a father of three to think that?
I notice that the bags that had fallen landed on two white-habited nuns. Even though I am observing them from the rear, I see they have slightly hunched backs. They seem quite slight, possibly frail. They appear elderly. They stare straight ahead as other passengers attempt to retrieve the strewn groceries, some trapped between them, some on the floor, and replace them in the shopping bags. One of the nuns thinks, Oh, Lord, as if I don’t have enough to deal with right now. She snaps up a Golden Delicious apple from her lap and tosses it in one of the bags. She grumbles with discomfort, My thong is killing me!
The other nun squirms a bit. I wonder, she thinks, if the other sisters at the convent realize how free it feels to go commando.
My gaze returns to the young mother, who is now nursing her son. She manages to keep her breast hidden. Sitting next to them is a 15-year-old boy in a burgundy and gray school uniform. With quick subtle glances, he peeks sidelong at the activity next to him, hoping to get a glimpse of a breast. His backpack rests on his lap. His hidden right hand appears to be moving under the backpack in a rapid stroking motion. I can’t believe I’m doing this on a bus, he thinks. The woman, sensing her baby is no longer suckling, moves him away from her breast and, in a nanosecond, covers herself. But her protective move was not fast enough. Her teenage neighbor’s eyes open wide. Nice rack, mama, he gasps in my head.
I chuckle and look away. My roving eyes focus on a Caucasian man about my age sitting next to the window in the back row. His features indicate he might be Jewish. His conservative hair style reflects a possible career in law, banking, or real estate. He is wearing an orange Florida State sweatshirt with a gator across the chest. He smirks with arrogance. I can’t believe, he is thinking, I illegally voted for Trump in Pensacola just four days ago and no one’s the wiser. His thoughts morph into sinister laughter.
Disgusted, I turn toward the front of the bus. I see the back of the driver’s head. My inner ears hear his voice. Do these idiots realize I’m not the bus driver? he thinks. I’m sure they don’t suspect the real one is bound and gagged in the baggage hold underneath. He shifts his position in his seat. Once we get to the Chapala plaza and get rid of most of these jerks, we’re headed for Laredo and the border!
I look around. I have to tell someone, warn them, I say to myself. But I am distracted by a muscular, handsome 20-something Mexican looking at my face. He is, even by my high standards, a “stud.” He looks away, but not until I realize he had stared at me that millionth of a second longer than is acceptable between men. Unless. Am I being cruised? I wonder.
He glances back at me and fleetingly connects with my eyes, but his gaze glides past me this time. It is obvious he is faking looking around, observing the environment. His thoughts crash into my head. He’s hot for an old gringo. I might not even charge him. His head starts rotating back past me. I wonder, if I look at him again, if he will follow me off the bus?
Without warning, the driver slams on the brakes. In an instance, I find myself on the aisle floor. There is space around me. I look up. The logjam of passengers that had filled the aisle moments before has disappeared. I get up and notice many empty seats around me. Oh crap, I tell myself, I’ve been daydreaming!
I peek out the window. We are at Chapala’s main stop, its plaza, where most of the passengers get off the bus. I look toward the back door. The last of the riders are disembarking. I dash to join them, lining up behind a striking woman in a bright multi-colored and sequined blouse. How could I have not noticed her before? I ask myself. Because, I answer, I was lost in my stupid fantasies. Damn, I think with disappointed frustration, none of that was real.
I step off the bus. Standing in front of me, looking at me, is the young Mexican stud. He smiles.