Bus Stop | Samantha Steiner

I’m at the bus stop near my house. There are two drivers who do this route. They’re both white and I don’t know their names, but I know their faces and they know mine. While I’m waiting, I’m thinking for no particular reason about how lucky I am to be alive. I know it sounds stupid, like, if you saw me you’d just think, hey, there’s this kid with curly hair and big headphones and maybe he’s on his way to school, and maybe he’s a skateboarder. He doesn’t have a skateboard but he looks like a punk rocker, like the kind of person who draws tattoos on himself with a permanent marker. Maybe I am that kid. When I was nine I saw that scene in the Parent Trap where Lindsay Lohan pierces Lindsay Lohan’s ear with a needle and a lemon and I tried it on myself but I couldn’t get the needle all the way in. The next day my earlobe was the size of a walnut and my mother was like Are you a gay? That’s how she says it, not gay but a gay because she thinks that if a guy pierces his ears he stops being a person and starts being something else. My little sister though, she was like seven at the time, she just took my hand and held it against her cheek and said she loved me. But yeah, I was thinking I was lucky to be alive. A few years after the earlobe thing my mother stopped asking if I was a gay and started taping pride flags in every window of our house, right next to the American flag. My mom really likes flags. I told her she could chill but it made her happy and I didn’t really mind. But it was after that, when my mom took me and my little sister ice skating. Well, my sister fell on the ice and broke her leg so she had to go to the hospital. We didn’t have a lot of money then and it wasn’t a very good hospital. The doctors didn’t have a translator who spoke the language my mom speaks, so I had to translate. They kept my sister a few nights and she got some kind of infection from another patient. The doctors said she had a pre-existing condition, I won’t bore you with the details. But yeah, she died and no one really cared except me and my mom. It’s been a few months and I’ve gotten into this habit, kind of a ritual, of thinking about how lucky I am to be alive. I do it everyday by the bus stop. We live far enough from town that this is the first stop on the route, so the bus is always empty when it gets here. Like I said, both the drivers are white and I don’t know their names, but I know their faces and they know mine and they knew my sister’s. Sometimes I wonder if they wonder what happened, if maybe they see more than the kid with the curly hair and the big headphones.

Samantha Steiner is a writer and visual artist from New York City. She has received fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation and the Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts.