The Aztec Buddha

The Aztec Buddha
by J. Claudius Cloyd
There’re a lot of high school kids on the #14 at this time of day. It’s a hot day. No air-conditioning, and everyone has their window open. It’s sticky too. The girls aren’t wearing perfume but they emit a fragrance that smells like roses and honey. It’s probably just their shampoo. Me… I’m wearing black slacks, a navy blue tie, and a white shirt that’s beginning to become off-white and a bit stale around the armpits. Dress code. I wear glasses with wire frames, and I have short hair that’s dyed black. The boys are sagging, wearing their hats backwards and are talking like they’re black. That’s ok. I used to want to be black too, but there’s really no point in wanting to be something that you’re not.
Though I’m only 4 or 5 years older, their conversations don’t make much sense to me, and I don’t try to make any sense out of them. Instead a breeze of perverse delight guides my gaze towards their low cut shirts, and I look to the window, imagining myself falling into those perspiring gaps. None of them suspect, and go about their gossip and barking laughter.
By 60th Avenue, most of the kids have gotten off. But more people are getting on. By the time we get to Hawthorne, the seats fill up and a few people are standing in the aisles.
Somewhere around 27th in Hawthorne is where this short pudgy man with a handle bar mustache gets on. He looks like an Aztec Buddha in bum’s clothing. I’ve seen this guy a whole bunch of times. His breath reeks of beer, and his clothes smell like feet and urine. If he talks to you, he doesn’t ask what your name is; he names you.
He stumbles, plunking each foot haphazardly forward. A couple of times he veers backwards. As the bus driver presses on the gas, he begins to fall forward. Nobody catches him. People are asking him if he’s alright, but no one is offering to help him up. He grabs some guy’s knee, and eventually stabilizes himself with one of the bars. He says to the guy with the knee, “Don’t get too excited, I ain’t no faggot.” The guy with the knee doesn’t say anything.
The seat next to me opens up, and the drunken Buddha takes it. He gives me a look like I’ve done something distasteful. “Where’re you goin’?”
I tell him I’m going to work.
“Shit man, you’d probably get there faster if you put on your cape and flew.”
What does a person say to that? Who knows, so I just smile.
“Hey everybody, ol’ Clark Kent thinks he’s foolin’ everybody with his glasses, but he ain’t foolin’ shit…” he ejaculates in a drunken drawl. The people in back laugh. I laugh too. When he asks me where I work, I tell him.
“You know what they call that place?” he says, mocking confidentiality. Then he whispers, “Psycho-Safeway.” I tell him that I know.
At this point, the bus is approaching the courthouse. It’s a big stony, concrete block with very little personality. The man next to me scowls, points, and begins shouting, “Hey look everybody! It’s my home!” He raises his middle finger and says: “Fuck you, home!” Again, everyone on the bus laughs. So do I. The only one who isn’t is him.

0 thoughts on “The Aztec Buddha

  1. That character really comes alive–the Aztec Buddha and the 1st person storyteller! I like how the story progressed as the bus was literally ‘progressing’–awesome setting (or moving setting). I was also taken-in by the ending–sad but it seemed very true to life. Well done sir!

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