Gerald steps on the bus, a smile beaming amidst a salt-and-pepper beard that gracefully compliments his smooth, chestnut-toned skin. He holds his right hand in the air, proudly showing off what he imagines to be a lottery ticket, displaying it to the bus and to his companion. The bus driver, recognizing the card in Gerald’s hand as a one of the city’s subsidized bus passes, looks at Gerald for three-and-a-half beats, then turns his eyes back to the road as he presses the button closing the front door of the bus.
Gerald’s companion hasn’t moved his feet. He stands on the sidewalk, shouting, “Hundred million dollar man! Have you seen my friend? He’s a hundred million dollar man!” The bus begins to move, and Gerald, head held high, shuffles down the aisle before depositing himself in a seat near the back door of the bus.
“You’re gonna make it, Gerald!” the friend calls out. The friend’s words are inaudible, since the windows are sealed against the hot afternoon sun, but his enthusiasm is apparent from the movement of his fists punching the air as he shouts his prophecy.
Seated and looking forward as his friend passes from view, Gerald’s city-man habits try to kick in, telling him to kill the smile, even if he’s thrilled to death. But his beaming smile can only be tamed ever-so-slightly, just enough to show everyone that he’s really trying. In case they’re looking. And he hopes they’re looking. Because he doesn’t care if they’re looking. He’s a hundred-million-dollar man, after all.
Gerald rides the bus, his would-be lottery ticket rubbing against his quadriceps like something more substantial—perhaps a credit card—in his pocket. He can’t help but think about that lottery ticket. He has all but forgotten the book that he nestled in the crook of his left arm and pressed against his rib cage. The title is obscured by his arm, but the publisher-author declares itself in clear, gold-foil letters that stand out from the forest green, faux leather cover: Alcoholics Anonymous.
Gerald’s smile can’t be contained the whole ride home.