Everything Keeps Going… – X.C. Atkins

This excerpt from X.C. Atkins fiction story appears in full in the Chinatown Bus Stories Chapbook: “Stories and illustrations of adventure, tragedy and lives in transit” w/ Accompanying artwork by Dewey Saunders.

The trip started how it always did – quiet but electric just beneath the surface. My personal rule was to wait until we passed the Six Flags to pull out the hooch. I had an aisle seat and didn’t have to share with anybody. I was lucky. A dark-haired white woman who looked about my older brother’s age sat in a chair across the aisle from me. She was attractive. I could just see a spray of freckles across the bridge of her nose. Just as I was putting the flask to my lips, I saw her pulling out her own. She gave me a small confident smile and I gave her a bigger, sillier one and we tipped them back together.

A couple of seats back, a man was on the phone arguing with someone on the other end. It didn’t take long to figure out it was someone he was romantic with and it didn’t take long to figure out he was a jackass.

“Bitch,” I heard him say, “You’ll wait there for me and you won’t touch shit.”

I felt ashamed. I looked across the aisle to the woman drinking with whiskey with me. She just rolled her eyes. I was shocked that she wasn’t shocked. A part of me wanted her to command me to punish that man. But she didn’t do that. Still, I apologized anyway.

“Be sorry for the woman on the other line,” she said to me. “Or don’t be. She doesn’t need to be there.”