Finished work. Walked outside. Walked for bus. Bus arrived. I got on. Then sat down. Pulled out book. Looked around.
Across the aisle from me was a woman and she was reading a book. I was reading my book but naturally I kept looking over at her reading her book. What book was she reading? She better show me. Will she flip the cover up? I imagine that the compelling intensity of my curiosity will be enough to make her snap the cover up for me to see. Unbelievably, the book stays flat down.
Please. Just give me one look at it, my dear. Just one brief look. That's all I ask. Flip it up for a fraction of a second, at just the right angle, and let me read the cover and find out what book it is that you are reading. Will you do that one thing for me? Is it too much to ask? No, it is not.
Next time I look over she is staring ahead, into space. She must be thinking about something she has just read, some paragraph that moved her, that excited some deep personal memory or feeling. Ah! Perhaps she has identified with a character's action, or words, or motivation! That look in her eyes! How it strikes me! A perfect reverie!
Then! Then I look down at her book and she is holding it closed, while staring into space, and I can see the cover! My awesome persuasive mind power was successful after all! She is reading a book called The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving. This tells me nothing about the woman, sad to say. Who is John Irving? I have never read a book by the man. What kind of books does he write? I have no idea. I think 'John Irving Hotel New Hampshire' dumbly, staring into space myself, vowing to read a book by this fellow, to know what he writes about.
Now I can look in other directions. My eyes aim straight ahead to the two people sitting in front of me. There is a woman on the right and I see that she is reading a book. Another book-reading woman on the bus! I look hard at the pages and can only read a few words: '...we got on the helicopter...' What kind of book is this? Somebody got on a helicopter? At no point does she move the book in such a position that I can see the cover.
While my head is craning around to find some angle to see the cover, to my ASTONISHMENT I notice that the person sitting next to her is also a woman and she is also reading a book! There are two women sitting right in front of me and they are both reading books. My head spins. I am surrounded by book-reading women! This simple bus trip from work to home has suddenly exceeded all expectations. Yet my great joy is tempered with a crestfallen dismay as I soon realise that neither of these women are prepared to flip their respective books to give me a peek at the covers. They are reading, but I do not know WHAT they are reading. (Even when the bus reaches my stop and I get up from my seat and move past the women towards the door, and bend over at a conspicuous angle in order to get a look at the covers, my gambit fails, and I remain in the dark, as it were.)
And as wonderful as it is for me to share this bus with all these book-reading women, I can't help but wonder what the hell the men are doing. I see one man reading the goddam sports pages. One man looking dumbly at the ads on the walls. One man fiddling with his stupid mobile phone. Another man with white wires sticking out of his ears. What is happening here? Why are the men not reading books? The women are reading books. What the goddam hell are the menfolk doing?
Ah, whatever. Whatever the fuck.
Today I was on the bus surrounded by book-reading women!