Day 9/16 School Bus
Trigger Warning: This post contains depictions of childhood sexual abuse
Saeed jumped from his seat to the seat next to Fatima, almost falling over as the bus braked and went over a speed bump. He looked at her and flipped his eyelids inside out. He knew she hated that. She grimaced at his distorted face and lunged at the seat behind her, but she hung limp, her abdomen on one side of the seat and her legs on the other. Her bottom protruded upwards and Saeed and his sister Salma laughed.
“Your panties show!” Salma shouted, pointing at Fatima’s underwear. Everyone roared.
Fatima sat back down, straightened her navy blue uniform skort, her face deep red, partly from hanging upside down, partly from embarrassment. Her eyes wandered up to the rear-view mirror at the front of the bus. He was looking straight at her, his eyes smiling. She began to feel sick. She moved to the window seat and hid behind the grey polyester curtain. She watched the passing cars. She heard each of the other children leave the bus at each stop. She counted down the number of stops until she would have to be alone. Salma and Saeed left last. They called something out to her as they left, but she remained behind the curtain.
“Don’t be a crybaby!” Salma shouted out to her as she left the bus. A tear finally burst its way out of Fatima’s eye and made its way down to her chin. Fatima discreetly wiped it with her wrist. They were alone. It was time.
“Fatima,” he said. “Come here. I want to show you something.”
Her throat felt acidic. She hadn’t eaten all day. Slowly standing up, she eyed the plastic flooring and walked up to the white fake fur mat next to him where he always asked her to sit. He always asked her politely – never forced her. That way she would only blame herself. She sat silently on the patchy fur. The cold torrent from the air conditioner hit her forehead and she felt dizzier.
His eyes remained fixed on the road. After bits of small talk, he became silent. He reached for her head and pulled her scrunchie out of her hair. His hand assumed a life of its own, first lifting his kurta and lowering his trousers then directing her little hand to where he wanted it. She kept her eyes on her knees. He moved her hand.
I hope mama doesn’t find out I threw away that cheese sandwich she packed me.
He squeezed her fist harder on his limp part. It reminded her of a snail. He let out a hot, sour moan. She held her breath. The backs of her knees were now drenched in sweat against the itchy white fur mat. He took the longer way and drove slower. She tried not to breathe as the heat from his body and the smell of his sweat radiated from him.
I can’t wait to show mama the star sticker that Miss Carol gave me. Miss Carol said I was a good girl when I held my finger up and waited to be called.
She glanced at her arm to make sure the sticker was still there, but it was not. It had fallen off onto his lap. Her palm was shriveled and small. She kept her eyes on her knees. The frequent braking and the smell of his body made her lightheaded.
“Are you ready to show me yours?” he asked her. The sound of his croaky voice startled her. She shook her head. He said he was sad that she didn’t want to.
His hand put everything back in its place as they reached her apartment block. He pulled down his kurta over his mess. He placed her clenched fist back in her lap. He shifted the gear into P.
“Look at me”.
She did. His thin mustache was beaded with sweat. He combed back his henna-dyed hair with his fingers. From underneath two bushy eyebrows, he looked at her and said, “Remember what I told you. You don’t want to make your mama sad, right?”
She remembered. Mama would be very sad if she knew. She would give her the silent treatment for a long time.
He lowered the sun visor in front of him, where a picture of a woman in a yellow sari with a baby in her arms was tucked next to the mirror. She got off the bus and vomited.
This blog was written by a WLUML networker who wishes to remain anonymous.
This blog series is an initiative of the Stop Stoning Women Campaign hosted by WLUML - campaigning to bring an end to Stoning.