Something More Interesting
Tara Laskowski


Heidi was the only person on the bus going to the concert by herself. Her ex-boyfriend Mark was the Springsteen fan. The MagikBus made her more and more claustrophobic with each raving fan that pressed into the aisle, armed with coolers and radios and expressions of such rapture that Heidi was afraid one of them might start preaching. They were all so young. She felt her chest getting hot, probably hives.

Heidi might’ve gotten up and left the bus if Roger hadn’t blocked her way. He was in the seat Mark should’ve been in. Roger was with the couple across the aisle from them, and she only knew his name after he gulped an entire beer down and the woman screeched, “Roger, you’re going to puke!” He piled up his empty beer cans on the floor in front of them.

“You don’t mind, do you?” he asked Heidi, smiling. Despite the heat, he wore a black hooded sweatshirt over his Bruce t-shirt. “Are you excited?”

“Yes,” she said with as much energy as she could muster. “It’s my fifth time seeing him,” she lied.

Roger nodded. “My seventh. Every time it’s like brand fucking new.”

***

Heidi intended to give back the tickets to Mark until he demanded them. 

”You don’t even listen to him.” His self-important dismissal sealed it: She was going to the concert.

“Secretly, I do. Secretly I harbor this intense longing for him and I really want to see him.”

“No offense, Heidi, but you don’t have any secrets.”

“How do you know?” There were pinpricks of panic on the edges of her words. Everything she said to him sounded like high-pitched static.

He laughed. “I’ve read your journal.”

“I don’t have a journal.”

“Exactly.”

***

Roger handed her a beer and toasted. “To The Boss Man,” he said, and the motion of the MagikBus caused some foam from the beer to drip over her fingers and onto her lap. She looked down at her hands and licked the beer off. Someone played “Dancing in the Dark” and it made her think of herself, alone in her apartment listening to the people next door argue. She sometimes twirled naked in her living room at night, with the blinds half open, pretending she was on a model shoot. When Mark left, she bought one of those gigantic tanks and filled it with exotic looking fish. It made her apartment more interesting—a conversation piece. She started to keep a journal.

When they got to the stadium, the driver of the MagikBus unfolded a table outside of the bus. The tour package promised a pre-concert party with hot dogs and hamburgers. He set the buns, chips, and drinks on the table. The grill hissed, sending drifts of smoke up to the bus window.

She liked the driver’s looks. He had wraparound sunglasses that covered his eyes, and Heidi couldn’t tell how old he was. She walked up to him and he handed her a burger. “Cheese?” He asked. “American, Swiss, or Provolone?”

She looked at the plate of cheese. “Don’t you only have American?”

“Yeah, but I like to make people feel as though they have a choice.”

His hair was cut short and she had the urge to touch it. Snippets of Bruce songs she recognized from Mark’s CDs fluttered through the parking lot like nightmares. The sun was hot and Heidi felt a little faint.

“Want a beer?” Roger asked her from a nearby picnic table. The couple he was with took the moment to size her up. They were probably wondering why she was by herself. Heidi sat down next to Roger at the table and took the Coors Light he offered her, popping open the top of the can.

“So you meeting people here or something?” The woman asked. She had the same kind of freckles as her boyfriend and they both had pointed noses. They looked more like twins then boyfriend and girlfriend, but they were holding hands.

“Uh, no. I was supposed to come with a friend, but he got sick.” Heidi played with the aluminum tab on her beer.

Roger squinted at her in the sun and ate his hotdog in two bites. “I wouldn’t miss a Springsteen concert if I was puking up blood,” he said, and Heidi realized how young he was, how young all of them were, and she felt awkward. It was embarrassing to think that Mark preferred to lose the money on the ticket to going with her. She felt like she had a horn growing out of her forehead.

“That’s too bad, about your friend.” The twin girl was eating a plate full of pickles.

Heidi smiled at them, licking ketchup from her fingers. “It’s ok. I’ll get by without him. He never likes it when I flash the crowd, anyway.”

The twin girl kind of chuckled, her eyebrows raised, and played with a pickle on her plate. Heidi could see the girl was the kind of sneaky bitch that wassweet to her face, but would turn to her boyfriend the second she was out of earshot and hiss, “What’s with that girl, anyway?” Heidi didn’t really get along with most other women.

The driver was still cooking. His forehead was beady from the heat of the grill, and Heidi noticed his hair was thinning on top. People started to trickle away from the bus toward the stadium. Roger and his friends threw away their plates and stood up. Roger looked at Heidi, his hands in the pockets of his jeans.

“We’re heading out. Want to come?”

She shook her head, and he looked relieved. “See you, then,” he said and saluted her. As they walked away, she considered catching up and flashing them,  just to prove she was for real.


“Hey,” she said to the driver, who was packing up. “Is the bus still open?”

“Yeah,” he said. “Forget something?”

“No. I have to pee again.”

He laughed and she saw his teeth, very white and very straight. The bus smelled strongly of air conditioning and beer and after she was done she thought about sinking into her seat and hiding. The bus driver cleared the table outside. “Need help with that?” she asked. She stacked the remaining plates on top of each other and handed them to him.

“Oh, don’t worry about it,” he said. “You go ahead. It’s my job.”

“I don’t mind.” She smiled at him and hoped she looked nice and not creepy. “So what do you do now? I mean, while we’re at the concert. Do you just hang out here?”

He laughed. She didn’t know why, but it made her laugh, too. She helped him fold the tablecloth and he looked around the rest of the parking lot as he answered. “I have a ticket, too. One of the perks of the job. Except that I have to be back before everyone else so I never get to see the encore.”

“Oh.” For some reason she liked the idea of this guy sitting in the bus alone while everyone else partied.

“But you know, sometimes the concerts suck. Like, who wants to see Brooks and Dunn or some shit? And then a bunch of the drivers usually sit around and play cards or something.” He folded the table and loaded it under the bus. He turned around and swiped his hands together. “Well, that’s that.”

Heidi stood there with him, waiting for him to do something else. The thought of sitting in a hot stadium with thousands of other people made her sick.

But the driver wasn’t leaving either, she realized. He, too, stood there with his hands in his pockets, looking a little awkward. She felt her heart pound instinctively, and ran her hand through her hair to tousle it. “It’s really warm out here.”

“Yeah. But it’s going to rain.” He took his sunglasses off and looked at her. His eyes, suddenly exposed, looked small and intense. “Are you going in?”

She blinked, trying to concentrate. He did something to her insides that she shouldn’t allow, that she didn’t deserve. “No,” she said abruptly, knowing it was true. She wanted to keep her options open.

“No?” He laughed.

“Are you?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know.” They watched an empty bag of potato chips flit by them in the wind, and to Heidi it seemed very profound.

***

The bus, empty, was like a treasure chest. The seats were covered in plush greens and purples that reminded Heidi of a casino, especially when she collected $3.47 in coins that had fallen from people’s pockets. The driver said his name was James and she liked saying it out loud as they explored, opening coolers and bags, not taking anything important.

“You find out a lot about people this way, huh James?” she said when they finally collapsed somewhere in the middle of the bus with some licorice, chewing noisily. Heidi wasn’t drunk but felt like she was. The twin girl bitch had her period. Tampons were shoved in her little Nine West tote bag under the seat. It made Heidi satisfied to think of her freckled face squinting as she struggled to change her tampon in a hot Port-a-Potty somewhere.

“I don’t usually do this,” James said.

“Liar.”

“No, I don’t. Ok, I’m lying.”

They cracked open a few beers from random coolers. No one would miss a beer. They drank and made out in the seats, the tinted windows providing privacy and shade. Heidi liked the way James tasted and the way he cupped her ass when they kissed. She thought of Mark. “Why are you here?” James asked at one point when they came up for air. “Do you usually go to concerts to seduce the bus driver?”

She laughed and scrunched her nose up. “If I told you, you would think less of me.”

“Even more less of you than I do now?” He was laughing but something inside her bruised. She sat up a little straighter and almost like he knew, he brushed a piece of her hair away from her face. “What did you do that was so bad? Steal the tickets from a little kid?”

“No. I cheated on my boyfriend.”

“So he punished you by giving you concert tickets?”

She laughed. “Nope. He doesn’t know. He broke up with me because he thought I was too boring.”

James made a noise in the back of his throat like a bee. “I don’t know about that, lady. You seem pretty interesting to me.”  His tone was not affectionate, and she didn’t like the word “lady.” As far as she could tell, they were the same age.

“You don’t really know anything about me, do you?” Heidi frowned. They were not touching anymore.

She got up and stood over him. From that angle, James looked like a potato, squat and uncomfortable, his shorts tight around his hips and tugging.

“Let’s hear Bruce,” she said, giggling. “Come on, there’s got to be one freakin’ CD on this bus.”

There were many. She found someone’s CD player and pressed play, skipping songs until she found the one she wanted. “I hate this fucking song,” she shouted, and began dancing above him. He looked up at her with a slight smile on his face, like a thought just bubbled out of his mouth and wasn’t sure what to do with itself. She pulled her shirt up and rubbed her hands across her belly, like she did when she was alone. It looked good in the mirror. It looked sexy.

James breathed heavy, and she leaned in and kissed his forehead. She felt his hands go around her and slapped them down, irritated. She got up on the bus seat across from him and unzipped her jeans.

She started singing. She could feel her hair grazing the middle of her back. This was not her. This wasn’t the girl who, when Mark had dragged her to karaoke one time, had sat in the corner watching while everyone else took their turn on stage. No, now she overdid it, loud and forceful, hamming it up the way she’d seen all the others in the bar perform that night, knowing if she didn’t keep up the confidence and the attitude she would be exposed for what she really was.

“You’re fucking crazy.”

She pulled her jeans down and danced in her bra and underwear. When she turned back around, he was looking down at his fingers. She got off the seat and knelt down next to him, pulling his chin up so his eyes met hers. He looked embarrassed, his cheeks red. “What’s wrong?” She squeezed until he pulled away, red marks from her nails dotting his cheeks. When he didn’t answer her, she laughed, the noise echoing off the windows of the bus.

“Why do you have this job?”

His face dropped. He looked down again. He had small hands that were very smooth. They looked strange to her, red at the tips like someone had just sucked very hard on them.

“My father owns the business.”

It was the truth, and she wished he had made something up. She thought about what his life was: driving drunk people back and forth to parties, rooting through their stuff, wishing he was somewhere else, in another life, not alone. She imagined him sitting on her couch in her living room as she posed naked on the floor, quietly watching her with those red fingers in his lap.

“That’s ok,” she said. “You have plenty of time to make your life what you want it to be.”

It started to downpour and they could hear it on the roof of the bus like people were dancing above them. She could see people running, muddy and drenched, through the parking lot to their cars. The bus home would be miserable—people wet, drunk, and smelly, Roger and his friends hung over and annoying, and James up front far away.

He would come home with her, maybe once or twice, just enough time and enough noise to drown out the couple next door that always argued. Just enough time for him to admire her fish tank, brush his fingers over the gurgling water and think, now isn’t this something? Then she would find a way to leave him alone in her bedroom, maybe while she was taking a shower or going for take-out, so he could discover her journal and read the pages that had incomplete secrets, fragments started and stopped.


Tara Laskowski grew up in Pennsylvania and now lives in a suburb of Washington, D.C. Her stuff has appeared in places such as Necessary Fiction, Barrelhouse and PANK Magazine. She is a senior editor at SmokeLong Quarterly. Visit her at www.taralaskowski.com.



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