Passengers jabbering away, more on mobiles than to each other. Multi-lingual white noise muffled by the groaning bus engine, occasionally interrupted by chimes for the next stop and HAL’s Catalonian cousin announcing “propera parada …” in a language I tell myself I don’t understand.
A toddler keeps pulling himself up over the seat ahead of me, staring until I look up from my Kindle, then ducks back down, giggling. I eventually surrender, making faces since I don’t know Cataspanish for “Peek-a-boo.” As giggles become laughs, I reach towards him, pretend to pinch his face and, without even touching him, pull back my hand and whisper, “Tengo tu nariz.”
Terror fills his eyes. “Mama, nooooooo!” he shrieks, and begins bawling, grabbing his nose and pointing backwards.
His mother stops Whatsapping and turns around. Gasping, she draws the boy to her bosom, whispering soothing mothering sounds, shielding his eyes.
Am I that horrific?
The next stop is mine. Rising towards the exit behind me, I see what scared him.
Birth defect? Radical cancer treatment? Bygone Byzantine barbarism?
Two black holes between her upper lip and eyes. Voldemort’s kindly sister who, even if she wanted to, could never stick her nose into anyone’s business.