BLUR OF CHOBANIS by Ted Mineo
Boston, South Station. Hugging the duffle bag against my chest, I walk and count them silently. I can feel six of them in there, poking out at me. The yogurts complain, their lids creaking against each other, frogs murmuring in a swamp of toiletries and underwear. Sorry, yogurts. You’ve been crammed in there for two days without refrigeration. Soon we’ll all be on the bus. I will pull back one of your foil tops and you’ll exhale and spit out a few drops. Some of you will have taken the entire trip with me, my little stowaways from Brooklyn to Boston and then back to Brooklyn.
Holding the bag with one arm now, I dig around in my pockets, looking for a certain sheet of paper, the ticket. One pocket holds a tangle of electrical cords, the other is full of bread. Bread and keys. The keys unlock a house that belongs to my ex’s boyfriend. When I am in Boston, I sleep in his basement.
The bread is from the South Station Food Court, where the employees of one restaurant, Cosi, often leave a bowl of crusts out for passerby, an attempt to foster goodwill with the South Station community. The ploy works: I buy a small coffee there most weeks before stuffing a handful of napkins and sugar packets into my bag. Today my bread timing was perfect. I had gasped when I saw the baker putting the bowl in place from across the terminal.
I finally find the ticket in my bread-and-keys pocket. The tightly folded wad of printer paper has been steamed a little by the bread. I pull it out and unfold it with one hand as I climb the steps to the bus terminal, taking care not to tear it. I hand it to the woman at the counter and we exchange a smile. “E-ticket.” She stamps it and returns it to me to sign. Moisture has brought new life to the page; it is more responsive to gravity now, bits of text bloom and become fuzzy. The barcode is blurred, the luggage and pet policies are illegible. The pen pushes through the paper as I write my name.
Yogurts croak again from inside the bag, urging me forward to the bus platform. My arms are getting tired. Using the duffle bag’s shoulder strap, I push on, performing odd twists and evasive maneuvers as others pass. Five years into this job and I am still out of sync with Boston pedestrians.
Then, a whiff of something sweet as I walk. I realize that there is violence inside my bag. Old pear, I remember you now. The edges of the yogurt containers are blades driving through your flesh, shovels pressed into your belly. You are becoming liquid, seeping into my clothes.
There is violence outside the bag too. Three police officers are forcibly removing a man from the terminal. Now they march him forward, positioning themselves behind the now-cuffed man, as if he were a human shield in an action movie. He is no longer struggling. I pause and watch them cross the terminal, waiting to see whether they will take the elevator, the stairs or the escalator down to the lower level.
The elevator chirps, opens its doors and I realize that my bag is lighter. The yogurts have cut their way out, are now spinning through the air toward the policemen. The blur of Chobanis produces a high whine as they perform two tight orbits around the cops at waist-height. A shower of sparks illuminates the group for a moment, then the yogurts punch a hole through a glass door and are gone.
The cuffed man steps inside the elevator, but the policemen do not follow. They seem frozen in place. Their legs remain rooted to the spot as the top halves of their bodies slowly slide loose and topple heavily to the terminal floor. The elevator doors close and I turn to catch my bus, feeling around inside my bag to see what is left of the pear.
I love the mixture of lightness and dark in this piece. Thanks!
The moldy fruit in a bag and rapidly deteriorating yogurt have been staples of my commuter existence.