Today behind and to the right of me someone started playing a guitar and, eventually, singing a love song to an absent Eugene. The singer sounded so much like my kindergarten teacher I only turned my head far enough to see the guitar, early on, to confirm it was a person sitting there with a guitar. I didn’t want to see the person, liked imagining it was Mr. Hayden–Mr. Hayden who would sing to us, once for everyone’s birthday (even for people like me, locked up in summer songlessness, for whom he threw unbirthdays), for every letter, for the days and months of the year…which melody is still, either to his credit or my foolery, the way the months of the year show up in my head when I have to count through them to see how far away a given date is. Mr. Hayden who, when a sudden and vicious fever of 104 tore me away from our much longed-for holiday party right in the middle of it–my crafts abandoned on the table, me unallowed to return from the nurse’s office to get them, crying, very ill and furious that I’d been ripped out of the revelry–showed up at my house in the early winter dark, my holiday crafts (ornaments, a picture frame, a glittery card) finished for me, the glitter in place and the glue dried. He brought cookies, and wished me well, and though I wasn’t allowed to rise from the couch where I was buried in blankets in the living room, my dad took him up to the train room, which leapt off the vault-ceilinged living room where I lay, and I could hear this man who had brought me cookies in the night being impressed with, delighted by, my dad and the world he had built up there, and I was so full of love it hurt and I passed out into dreams fevered with happiness.
So this guy on the bus sounded like my kindergarten teacher, and I carefully didn’t turn, imagining him preserved, with his vaguely 70s-ish curls and absurdly large hands. I heard him stop playing when the woman next to him asked him what smelled so good and he said it was his hand lotion, he wasn’t sure what was in it–lavender and shea butter and olive oil, maybe, he said–that one of the moms at the preschool he worked at had given him. Then my stop rang and I stood and had to turn and the guy with the guitar was the guy in the earrings and the ladies’ coat last week, and the coveralls before that–he who glowered at me when I pulled out a 3DS; whom I considered taking out a book in front of just to look like someone he wouldn’t think was poisoning society with my frivolous pursuits. And I thought, it isn’t fair, how you decide so quickly what breaks the world and what makes it; it isn’t fair that you withhold your praise from people who are so quick to idolize you just for thinking of them when you don’t have to. I hoped he didn’t break the hearts of little kids who talked about playing on their parents’ iphones. And I really hoped Eugene loved him back.