She probably thought he mattered, in a way that matters in their kind of world. All deep voiced, gravelly and slow at the ends of his sentences and more so when he stood straight. She probably met him in that dim club on Dock Street, throbbing with beats and the heat of oversexed Navy men. A man cut another man’s throat there, with the ragged end of a smashed Corona bottle. The bathroom floor became a slick rink of blood.
In the front of the bus, she watches her man hold their child. The pink baby is the size of a doll, small head circled by a frilled elastic so all know it’s a girl. He’s holding her up to the bus window, letting her large eyes blink and flitter at the blurring of passing trees. The man lifts his daughter high in his thin arms, dark hair shadows his white wrists. He leans forward, plants a kiss over the diapered spot between the baby girl’s springy legs. Maybe he meant for her belly. He looks round quickly, eyes hooded by reddened lids. His narrow shoulders curve in as he sets the baby on his lap. His sweatshirt is oversized and worn, like the awkward, plasticky stroller wedged in the aisle. The baby’s mother is quiet, her face hard as she watches him. She reaches out and draws the little one to her. She turns her head to nuzzle the infant’s plummy cheek. The mother is young and could have been, one day, full and beautiful. Her skin is the color of damp earth. The hoops in her ears are for dancing nights. The father flicks a cell phone to his ear. His voice is loud above the road noise, laced with question marks. He has a face that is pale and angular, chin small and pushed back. He probably pressed it out firm, head cocked, when he met her at the club. He probably waved his phone like a torch at the bar, checking texts, laughing at his screen, showing the bigger men that he had his own way.
The couple would have left the bar before the last call lights changed everything. They would have stumbled down Dock Street together His thin fingers would have found a hold in the long hair at the back of her neck. She would have seen the pier lights reflected in the oily sheen on the bay and felt it was romance and future.
Now, just a bus ride to somewhere she didn’t know.