All around me, high school students swarmed.
A pretty girl chattered and held court among a sea of horny boy attendees. A few laughing, acne-scarred boys rushed back and forth along the aisle, occasionally smacking each other or testing the waters by saying something slightly racist.
They all laughed and chattered and sulked and teemed. They moved in fast forward with the volume cranked up by half. Even the sulking was loud.
It was 8 p.m. on a Saturday. The bus driver and I were the only ones on the #9 north who could vote or buy cigarettes.
I was sitting in the back of the bus, in the second row of seats on the raised area after the door. Somehow I had wound up among the football players. They were big, rough-looking short-haired thugs with ears that didn’t seem to extend out from their heads but were flush with the muscled necks.
They were gossiping about every other person on the bus. Football players are catty, man.
I finally asked a likely looking heap of muscles wearing a Lane Tech stocking cap.
“Why’s everyone on this bus in high school?”
“A party got popped off,” he said.
“Ah,” I said.
Made sense. The cops busted a party and the kids scattered to the next available bus.
“Well, I hope you find a new one,” I said.
Our conversation had alerted an even larger, even more neckless football player. He had been taking up the two seats across the aisle from me, sort of spread out over them. He had short blonde hair in a military crew cut and a long silver earring dangling from one ear.
He looked me in the eye, cast a wise smirk and slowly enunciated the following words:
“There’s a party,” he said, nodding a little as he talked, “in my butthole.”
He kept nodding and smiling that same Buddha smile.
“You know, there’s medicine for that,” I finally said, my wiseass defense mechanism from my own high school days still apparently working.
Oh god. In for a penny, in for a pound.
“There’s medication for that,” I repeated. “Like ointment.”
“For the party.”
He nodded and gave a smirk. I had passed.
“What?” a tall, thin boy who had popped up in the aisle at some point said.
“He said there’s medication.”
“What?” the thin boy demanded, angry now. “Medication for a party?”
“For the party,” the football player with the dangly earring replied, drawing out the words to let the moment land precisely, “in my butthole.”
“Ohhh,” the thin boy said, nodding sagely.
The bus and the teens continued north after I got off. They kept laughing, holding court, gossiping and sulking loudly far off into that cold night.
I dialed a number on my cell phone.
“Hello?” my father said.
“Hi, Dad,” I said. “I’m sorry I was a teenager.”