He is a large man, not just for the bus, but for anywhere. The back of his head, the set of his shoulders, speak of Vikings and lumberjacks. Even the curl of his pink/freckle-speckled ears, large as soup bowls, seem to have come from another setting, a time when a man this size rode into town on a tornado, commandeered the wimmen folk and held back fate with the wave of a thick, meaty hand.
He’s in the seat ahead of me.
While a bit overweight, he could not, accurately, be described as “fat”. He is a barrel-chested man, a man with a neck like a thigh and shoulders built for the weight of the world.
He is a big man in a small world.
A woman sits next to him. Small, the winter’s daily carb-intake memo no doubt lost in the mail, she fits nicely in the seat next to him.
The color crawls up his neck in a painfully slow display that something is amiss. He fidgets, squishes his enormous shoulders against the window. He twitches once, twice, pauses for a moment and then begins again.
It is excruciating to watch. He cannot hold still. His seatmate glances at him, glances at the space between them. Is she in his space? Are they touching? No. But he cannot stop himself; and over and over again, he presses away, squirmily making something from nothing.
I close my eyes, and ,my mother’s voice hisses in my ear. Stop that right now, she says. Suddenly the man in front of me, 300 pounds if he’s an ounce, is wearing a frilly dress and a pair of Mary Janes. His feet swing from the edge of the pew as my mother both scowls and offers half a stick of Juicy Fruit.
You sit still now.
I reach in my purse.
I don’t have any gum. I cannot help this man.
The squirming becomes unbearable. Even from behind him, the urge to lean over and smack him on the back of the head – cut that out! – is overwhelming, and eventually, the tiny woman sitting next to him stands up and moves away to sit next to someone else.
I watch the back of his neck as the color fades.
And Erik the Red goes back to staring out the window at a world too small for him.