He’s been staring at her since the moment she got on the bus. She’s betrayed by her intensely dark hair and the mierda she mutters at the ticket machine when it doesn’t let her pay with a credit card.
She’s from South America.
Her hair reminds him of the women selling woolen hats in the train station in Aguas Calientes. He can’t take his eyes off of her.
She grabs the handle of an orange suitcase, but immediately gives up on trying to drag it to the front of the bus. She glides through the other passengers. Her tawny cheeks stick out among the sickly white of the other faces. Her ability to force her way through to the front makes the other passengers look even more numb. Finally she gets there: –Me puede vender un billete? – The driver dismisses her with a shrug.
His head was spinning when he first landed in Cuzco. The three thousand three hundred and twenty-six meters above sea level shortened his breath and only an infusion of coca leaves softened the blow.
He sees her chest start to heave as her blood starts to boil. She is back by her suitcase and with all her strength she squeezes the handle. The snow outside melts under the intensity of her gaze.
He wants to be the snow.
Up until now everything has gone smoothly for her. The flight from London to Warsaw was cheap. For fifty-nine euros she had a ticket to a destination which aroused admiration among her friends. Her selfie with a snowman earned her dozens of ‘likes’ and the one with a bottle of vodka was even shared three times. It seemed that she had successfully checked another European capital of her list, but then suddenly, at the end, this unexpected mishap.
How could a bus travelling to the airport have a ticket machine which doesn’t accept credit cards?
He also thinks it’s wrong. Whenever he arrived in a foreign city, and he traveled a lot, he felt that everything was created for his comfort. Pictures instead of complicated instructions. Children offering accommodation for the price of a double latte. Stewardesses serving moistened hand towels every hour.
Suddenly, he felt like taking the girl by the hand and begging her for forgiveness. He pushes his way towards her. The other passengers silently sigh. The girl looks at him. Her brown eyes confirm the existence of other worlds.
He stands face to face with her. Her breath mingling with his breath. It would be enough for him to just give her the right sign and they could run away from here. Together.
-Ticket Control – he says quietly, but she pretends that she doesn’t understand. He sheepishly opens his jacket and shows her his badge. – Tiene usted un billete?
He speaks several languages and his passion is travelling. You can read about him in a leaflet hanging behind the steamed up glass of the traveler ‘instructions’ panel. Under the title “Warsaw Public Transport Employee of the Year” is his picture with Machu Picchu in the background.
The girl, however, doesn’t pay any attention to his photo.
-Puta De mierda – she says to him, blinking her eyes nervously.
Suddenly there’s a terrible roar.
The Andes sink into the ground, forcing a flash which, as it turns out, is the last thought he’ll have in his life, as he instinctively grabs the girl,and clutches her in a loving embrace, the most beautiful one he’s ever experienced, rescuing her from the tram that crashes into their bus.