that guy who isn’t you, by Stacey Forrester

When I was twelve, I was finally allowed to take the city bus alone to and from Saturday gymnastics. After class, even if I took my time and helped my coach put away the mats I would have to wait sixteen minutes at the stop before the bus came. One afternoon I stood at the stop in my leotard and shorts, making puppet shadows with my topknot and the shape it made against afternoon sunlight on the sidewalk. A man crept up to the bus stop in his brown car with its brown seats and beckoned me over with his rust-stained fingers. He told me the bus wasn’t coming and that he would give me a ride. I backed away, pretending I hadn’t heard him. I stood frozen at the bus stop and stared at the line between my block of sidewalk and the next, lining my top knot shadow perfectly in the middle, like an arrow pinning me to that very spot. I pretended not to see him as he circled the block twice until the bus came. He wasn’t you though, because you and I are the same age and this was a long time ago, and the man with the brown fingers in the brown car that day was older than my dad.