The Bus Stop by Sarah Gates

Even the walls of the cinema are specked with dirt and grime, ash from the ciggies and gum from the smoker’s mouths. Occasionally some schmuck drifts out with a small shovel and a mop. They always have pimpled faces and look like they should be studying, as if it’s shocking to view the world without a book in their eyes. The people milling around the bus stop fall into three categories: the mentals, the crones, and the kids. They all flash their concession cards like VIPs in a club. The old crones shuffle and hobble their way to the front of the line, to the seats under shelter. They use their frailty like NFL players use their strength, with heads held high and opinions loud. But it’s the mentals you want to watch. They will scream and shout, stealing seats from the crones and wallets from the kids.

The school girls stand in groups, forming packs based on the hot-bitch scale. There is always one girl who wears taller shoes, with fake hair trailing down her back and make-up slathered on her face, black smudges sloshed along her eyelids and lashes. The guys wear their jeans hanging from their arses, presumably stuck there with the invisible tape the girls use to hold in their boobs. The conservative girls. Most of them let their tits out for the world to see.

The smart kids stand far from the stench of the dropkicks and drama queens. They clutch text books with barcodes and tattered novels. They sit alone on the buses, reading not talking.

One derro hangs by himself. The dealer in his hoodie and studded black jeans, Nikes on his feet and a flat cap on his head. He smells like weed and nicotine, with mouth wash on his fingers. This one slouches at Stop A, backed by the trolley stations and overhead ramp. He watches the cars pass. Holden. Ford. Holden again. The others watch for their bus or squint into the distance, along the main road. He’s a dead giveaway to any idiot with their eyes open. This dealer serves the stupid, the D minus averages. He thinks it’s easy; quick cash with a side of dope, swapping stolen notes for a zip lock bag. But he carries it tenderly, like a fabergé egg. A regular Mark Zuckerberg of the streets.

This one is worst than most. His wallet is thick with fifties and his shoes are fluoro orange, brighter than the occasional BM that cruises up the ramp. I watch the guy from Stop D, crouching next to the postered wall, protected by cloudy plastic. The ad, Sex Toys for Sexy Boys, is covered in graffiti. Not mine, the dealer’s. Moron. Marking his territory like a flat faced pug. And now he’s at it again, throwing himself behind bars, talking to a red-haired woman — not a crone, mental, or kid. Not even a rich prick uni kid. She’s not a regular.

But the dealer watches her hair, her lips, her boobs; never her waist. When she scratches her elbow, I see the outline and bulk through the material. A gun? It can’t be a taser. Not after they killed Port Elliot’s dealer. Six separate shocks. Enough to kill a tank.

His eyes are glazed over. The Stop A dealer. He’s fucking high. Soaring. Any sober halfwit would know a cop from a businesser. Any dolt could tell a city slicker, working in high rise buildings and marble offices, wouldn’t be hanging around here. Certainly not Stop A.

But this guy opens his fat mouth. Her lips move in response. When he looks down, fixated on the bright shine on his sneakers, the cop glances across the stops and at the loading zone. A man leans against a dump, dressed in baggy shorts, a shirt and jacket. Shit.

I slink further into the shadows of the shelter, pulling out my mobile and typing a text. She’s a cop. Get lost. My finger hovers over the ‘send’ button. The dealer digs in his pockets and draws a rollie. She’s staring at his arms and sure as hell not missing those holes. She nods at the loading dock. I delete the text and put my phone away. I ain’t going down with that arsehole, I think. They’re talking. She’s asking him questions; that’s obvious. And he’s answering, swagging like a drunk. Or perhaps he is drunk, just kept drinking from the night before. Beer for dinner, jager bombs for dessert. Whatever’s left over for breakie.

The man walks towards them, stinking to the shadows, behind the dealer’s eye line. He’s being cautious, like Stop A is some sort of threat. They converge on him and he looks down the line of the rollie, drawing the smoke into his mouth and playing it on his tongue. She reaches into her jacket, a dead giveaway. It’s bloody hot. The countryside is burnt orange, with fields of dry dirt instead of crops. But her motion gets his attention, but he looks at her with glazed eyes and a lazy grin as if he’s expecting a mobile phone, like she wants him number for a quickie after work. She pulls out a badge. His expression changes and good two seconds after it should have. High as a fucking kite.

The city transmute pulls into Stop D. I dig my hands into my pocket and fish out my ticket, almost exposing with it the small brown wallet. Specks of powder stick to my palms. But the machine tings happily. I shove the ticket back into my pocket and wipe my hands on my pants. I take my usual seat at the back, near the window. The coppers lead the Stop A dealer from the street and into the parking lot. His mouth has stopped moving. Finally. I grit my teeth and make an early New Year’s resolution. No more bloody idiots.