Twenty Minutes on the Bus


I take the bus to and from work as a matter of choice, but even though one of the reasons I use public transportation is to avoid the aggravation of driving during the rush hours, there are times when the bus can be just as annoying.

Like last Monday, for example. For whatever reason, the bus was much more crowded than usual, and I was forced to go toward the back and stand up while hanging on the pole in the center of the aisle.

My job has me on my feet most of the day as it is, and while I’m not a senior citizen quite yet, I’m not as young as I used to be, so the prospect of hanging on for dear life while the bus jerked and bounced around the pot-hole riddled streets of the city was not the what I was looking forward to.

And then Dawn appeared and changed everything.

Her name isn’t Dawn, or at least I think the chances are great that it isn’t. I named her Dawn when I glanced over at her because she reminded me of someone from way back in my high schooldays. That Dawn of the 60’s also had blonde hair, like my fellow passenger, and hers came out of a bottle as well, since her eyebrows were just as black as my old classmate’s were.

I gave a tight-lipped smile when “Dawn” accidentally brushed the top of my hand with hers as she reached up to grab a piece of the metal pole when the bus lurched forward.

Dawn returned the smile before going back to the magazine she had opened and held while trying to read. My eyes glanced over at the petite left hand that was inches above mine, and after that my eyes traveled downward, as they usually do.

Dawn’s arms were creamy white, with a dusting of dark hair on her forearms, and as my eyes continued to travel downward I was stunned when I peeked into the armhole of her short sleeved blouse, which hung open with her arm extended upward.

Dawn, sweet Dawn, I thought to myself as my eyes took in the unexpected delight of her exposed armpit. Unexpected because instead of seeing a smooth underarm, or perhaps a sprinkling of stubble in that gentle hollow for my inspection, I saw a luxurious tuft of rich black hair.

Not the result of forgetting to shave for a few days, mind you. Dawn’s armpit was filled with a wild spray of hair that went up to the inside of her bicep and down to where only the darkness kept my eyes from following.

“You’re beautiful.”

I wanted to say that, but I didn’t. Dawn was probably in her early twenties, and I was old enough to be her father – grandfather even if you want to get technical, and I doubted whether she would appreciate a stranger making such a comment, no matter how innocent I may have meant it.

So I said nothing, and instead kept looking down her sleeve, marveling at the glorious sight of a woman with unshorn armpits in 2011. Forty years ago, this would not have been such a rarity. Back when I was growing up, body hair was not considered an appalling trait, and a woman not removing her body hair was not usually thought of in a negative way any more than a man growing a beard would be.

Today, things are different. Julia Roberts didn’t shave her underarms for a while, at the request of a man she had been seeing, and she was the subject of ridicule in the media after somebody took a picture of her waving.

Conversely, Britney Spears, Lindsey Lohan or another of these instantly famous no-talent starlets of the 21st century, gets out of a car with her legs spread wide open, flashing her hairless labia for the paparazzi to capture forever, and that’s okay.

I looked over at the woman standing across from me, intently reading her magazine, and tried to figure her out, define her and give her a life story for my own enjoyment. Probably a state clerical worker, and since there was no wedding ring on her finger, I decided she was single.

I decided Dawn lived alone, in a small apartment in an apartment complex just outside the city. At about 5’5″ and maybe 120 pounds, I decided that her trim figure was the result of her making a few trips to the Y every week and eating right, even though that regimen didn’t seem to have the positive effect on me that it did on her.

My eyes went back to her underarm, which was still there for my enjoyment as the bus made its way through town. Thankfully enough people got on to keep the seats full despite the people getting off, and I was also grateful that chivalry was apparently dead, since none of the men on that bus offered up their seats for Dawn.

Was Dawn a strident feminist, perhaps making a statement by not shaving her armpits? Maybe it was a seasonal thing, since spring had only finally begun to show itself, and she happened to be one that chose not to bother shaving during the colder months when her underarms were always covered.

I hoped that she wasn’t lonely, and that the reason she didn’t wax or shave because there was no one around to look at her. She had pleasant enough features; big brown eyes hidden behind even bigger glasses, those dark and thick eyebrows, and a chin dimple that was adorable.

Maybe the hair was there to please her lover? My wife has done it for me for many years, so perhaps it was her boyfriend who asked her to stay natural. Maybe her girlfriend liked her hairy like this. I cringed when my own fantasies began to infringe on Dawn’s biography, but despite my kinks I guess I am a normal guy at heart.

In the end I decided that Dawn didn’t shave her armpits because she didn’t want to. Take me as I am, I pictured her saying if somebody questioned her about it. I didn’t ask you to look down my sleeve.

Was she a woman who waxed away her pubic hair, having the hairs ripped out of the skin in an effort to follow the latest trend? That had to be a man’s idea – convincing people that a trait of adulthood be removed so that a part of the body so womanly natural be turned into something suggesting pedophilia. I decided she did not do that.

Just then, I happened to glance down at Dawn’s face again and saw that she was not looking at her magazine any longer, but was looking right at me. Looking at me looking at her, to be precise, and I suspected that she might have been aware of where my eyes were focused for more than a second.

There was a time in my younger days when I would have cringed at being caught like that, or even gotten off the bus just to avoid my embarrassment, but I’m older now. Perhaps not wiser, but older.

So instead I just smiled, and to my surprise, Dawn smiled back. She went back to her magazine, and I went back to looking under her arm, the wild spray of hair now sparkling with a light dew of perspiration.

Dawn got off the bus a few stops later, and as she leaned over and pulled the cord to signal her stop our eyes met again.

“Thank you,” I said to Dawn, and that thank you was for letting me pass the time by enjoying your beauty, and also for you not ruining a most wonderful bus ride with a caustic remark.

Dawn said nothing, but her tight-lipped smile widened, exposing a perfect set of pearly whites, and for some reason I thought that she seemed to understand why I said that to her.

“You’re beautiful,” I added as she moved away from me, most likely forever, although I don’t know for sure if Dawn heard me or not.

I’d like to think she did, because I meant it. She was beautiful.

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