The smell of clothing reeks with stale smoke and urine/it wafts towards me on the breath of early morning liquor/it’s wearer plops down in the seat next to mine

We eye each other/both of us aware/I don’t belong/I am neatly dressed/no hints of foreign smells/on my feet are skele-toes/all the rage in Berkeley/but I am not in Berkeley/I’m deep in the heart of where my people live

They all eye my feet soon as they board/I look up/I smile/I am met with a scowl/a blank stare/almost saying/bitch watchya smiling at

My seat mates/come and go/similar smells/too much urine on one/too much liquor on the other/too much perfume/displacing the oxygen molecules/too much smoke that makes me/reach for my inhaler/and incur more scowls

They arrive at the fare box/sometimes barking questions/sometimes drawling their words/indecision about which bus to get on/which stop to ring the bell/they don’t want to walk far/when they arrive at their stop

A woman boards/jeans too tight/showing her neon-orange thong/later, straightening from her slumped posture/she boasts of 3 children/when an old lady asks her age/she proclaims 26/proud/I have an 11, 8, and 6 year old/I calculate/she became a mother at 15/I cringe/why is that something to be proud of/perhaps there isn’t much else

She glances my way/I smile a sad hesitant smile/blank stare back/she knows/I couldn’t/wouldn’t/understand/the generations of systemic  muck that has bequeathed her 3 children at 26/I stare at my feet/not sure where else to focus

Skele-toes/today was the wrong day to wear these/they speak a language/all their own/they say privilege/they say access/I think/dude they were on sale at Ross/these silly shoes are the most comfortable things for my inherited bunions/honestly I have worn nothing else over the last two weeks/wanna try them

I stop staring at my feet/I refuse to let them intimidate me/I am clearly out of my element/this far down the 52 on AC Transit/I stash my inhaler/switch seats/await my stop with some anxiety/dreading the return trip/wishing cabs were not so expensive in the U.S./hoping the return trip will be less jarring on my bougie self/acknowledging/Black can never equate one experience

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