Today’s Scintilla Project prompt that inspired my story is “Being trapped in a confined environment can turn an ordinary experience into a powder keg. Write about a thing that happened to you while you were using transportation: from your first school bus ride, to a train or plane, to being in the backseat of a car on a family road trip.”
47D was always the last route you wanted to take to get back to the university. It was notorious for pickpockets, lechers, molesters, and smelly people in general. But I was hard-pressed for choices at 8pm in the night, especially since curfew was in 40 minutes. When the bus in question stalled in front of me, I deliberated for a moment before the whirr of the engine forced me to clamber in without a second thought.
I glimpsed his face, this boy of not more than 16, and a gnawing intuition of destiny dawned on me. I shrugged it off. What part in my destiny could this scrawny youngster play?
I handed the money for my ticket to a fellow passenger to pass it on to the conductor and waited for my ticket and change to be passed back, a ritual common in crowded buses in Chennai. There was a tap on my shoulder and I turned to face this youngster again who handed me my ticket and change. “Thanks”, I said, and smiled politely. He regarded me with the black pupils that swam in the yellows of his eyes; chin tilted inwards as he nodded in response.
It wasn’t a long ride back to the university. But in the next three minutes, I found him inching closer to me, hand slightly raised away from his hip in the hope that the next bump the bus drove over would send it flying toward my crotch. I had a package in my hand, thankfully, that I instantly shoved in front of my zipper to discourage the young man from thinking I was just another naïve bus rider. I don’t know if he got the message or not, but the bus was nearing my stop, and I moved closer to the exit, glad that I didn’t have to deal anymore with this sort of behavior.
But the universe had other things planned for me. The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu happened to be passing by, and the police were in the process of closing all intersections to clear traffic for the grand entourage to pass through. Sadly enough, the bus couldn’t make it to the other side of the intersection before my stop, and we were stuck there, waiting in traffic for the good part of twenty minutes, a golden window of opportunity for my molester to push through the crowd and position himself right behind me, where he proceeded to push his stiffened masculinity against my backside.
I froze. I was frightened. This was the first time I was being attacked so blatantly and I stood there, waiting to see if somebody would come to my rescue and pull this creep off my back. I had, until then, only dealt with lechers and oglers, this was something entirely new to me. I looked around outside the bus. I couldn’t jump off just yet, some traffic was still finding its way to the intersection. I wanted to yell the words, “GET AWAY!”, but my tongue was stuck at the back of my throat, and I don’t know how long I stood there while he pushed and dug, but it seemed like hours.
And then, finally, I decided enough was enough. I jumped off the bus and began to walk back to the university, but not before I shot a dirty look in the direction of the bus as the yellows receded into an indifferent crowd. I hurried along, half-walking, half-running, still worried about the curfew. I was inside the university when I bumped into my good friend CB. She looked at my face and asked me if I was alright, and I stopped in my tracks and burst into tears. She put her arm around me while I choked and sobbed the story of my first molester as the hostel gates closed behind us.