Rigorous
Volume Two, Issue 2



The Sickness

Krystal-Elaine Long


Rona’s stomach turned, letting her know that the waves inside were crashing and threatening to overflow. She wasn’t going to make it all the way to Dayton.

Rona’s eyes keep looking down at her hands; her knuckles looked swollen and damp with sweat. Stuffing them in her pockets, she had to remind herself to breath, to blink, to care that the bus was full of the natural and clean, that she even knew one - Dre.

“He’s got me on this stank bus, talkin’ bout a cure. Cure my ass. He’s just like everybody else, never believin’ what’s true.”

“You okay there, love?” He grabbed her by the shoulder and pulled her close. The sandwich that he was trying to finish got quickly wrapped away and tucked into the mesh pocked of the seat in front of him. “Come on; let me put some love on yah.” His soft laugh was the world, and just the sound of it made the unshed tears burn in her eyes.

“Don’t touch me!” She said a little too loud. “I mean. Umm, thanks Dre. Where that apple go anyway? You ain’t save none for me?” He let her shoulder go and stiffened.

“Nah, I got yours in the bag. I’ll get it.” He jumped out the seat and stood above her shuffling around their bags on the metal luggage rack, not acknowledging her stare. She knew he was getting tired of trying. So was she. She was tired of being lied to, and tired of being sick. She was tired of seeing the empty future in his eyes. There wasn’t gonna be any future, not with her.

The rustling above her stopped, and he pulled down a red and green apple. “Ta da!” The smile on his face hurt her to see. She couldn’t imagine what it felt for him to force it on.

“Thanks, Dre. Ya sweet as always.”

“Yeah, that’s right. Now, you shoulda started with that part.” She knew he was only half joking.

“Thank you. I mean it, and all those things those nice girls say. All those things are you. That’s why you need to get off at Bridgeport.”

“Ain’t no way I’m –”

“Look! Ain’t no time for this! This is real shit. Ya need to go!” The lady in the seat to the right of them turned and looked, and then rolled her eyes as she shook her head.

“Aye, mind ya business. That’s right. I’m talking to you.” Rona was halfway out the seat when Dre moved in-between them, and stood in the aisle.

“You done spreading our business around, or are you beating up old women now?”

Rona threw her hands up, “Ain’t nobody touch her ass.”

“What’s gotten into you?”

The waves in her stomach crashed again, and she was barely able to catch herself and hold down the flood tide as she swallowed hard, covering her mouth with both hands. Dre, who had been leaning in her direction straightened up and wrapped his arms around himself.

“Please. Dre,” Rona didn’t bother to look in his direction. The muffled words were still clear enough from behind her hands for him to understand. “Please go.”

The steady rocking, that the bus had lulled most to sleep with, stopped. “Well, I’ll just go first, but I’ll see you after, you know. I’ll be waiting.”

“Yeah, I know you will.” Rona put her hands back on her lap, and gave him a small smile. “I always come back around. You know that.” Sweat began to bead her brow.

“Yeah, just like the rain, baby.” She could see a tear trace his face, as he stared memorizing her every line.

“Last call for Bridgeport! Next stop Dayton!” The driver stood by the door stretching from side to side.

Dre grabbed his bag from the rack, and yelled back, “Coming, man!” Before he turned to leave, he bent down, and kissed Rona’s forehead.

“You’re pushing it.”

“I’ll risk it,” and then he jogged to the front, bumping into shoulders and causing people to cuss, right before running down the steps.

The bus started down the road again, but Rona never moved. That ocean inside her swirled and in her grief she let it well up and rage. A tsunami was forming inside and she didn’t care. It rattled her bones and caused her arms to twitch, consuming all of her from the inside out. Her head flew back and a roar of spray and mist broke free, covering everyone and everything around in a wet sticky residue.

People screamed and frantically wiped their arms and clothes down with whatever they could find. Angry and confused, they looked towards those middle seats to the girl with the long braids who was just there before. But, she was gone, and all that was left on the old leather was a puddle that seemed to sparkle with oil and dust, reflecting the light of the night sky.

“Eh! One of those faulty clones! Who’s gonna pay for my shoes!” The woman in the seat to the right took off her jacked and began wiping it off.

#

It started to drizzle as Dre stood watching the bus go. The smell of rain always reminded him of her, earthy and sweet with a hint of oil from the factories, “just like pop’s shop,” he smiled. She felt like home. That’s why it was hard to let her go. He patted his clothes until he felt a square bulge in his pants pocket and pulled out his phone.

“Hey, Pop. Yeah, I’m still coming, but its Rona. Nah, she ain’t make it. You think you could try again? Thanks old man! I’ll be there in 10.” As he hung up the phone, Dre touched his lips wondering if there was enough material left to scan. He covered his mouth with his hands and looked for the next bus to Dayton, smiling as he pictured their next kiss.


Krystal-Elaine Long: "Originally studying music and business in North Carolina, I later changed focus to anthropology and Chinese, and attained my MA in applied anthropology in California. Through my art, I express concepts related to the future, body-positivity, and self reflection using flash fiction, short stories, poetry, and through print block making. The creator and moderator of the 10 person writing group The Inkwell: Blerd Writer Critique Group, I holds bi-weekly meetings for writers to improve their writing through mutual support. As a researcher I explore worlds. As a fiction writer, print block maker, and community leader, I build them."




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