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95 at O'Hare; 90 by the Lake

I sat near the back of the city bus with my head against the green safety glass and tried to get as much benefit as possible from the meager breeze the three inch opening let through. For entertainment I watched the woman in the faded print dress sitting halfway to the front. Every time the bus crossed a street, the sun hit her dirty blonde hair and turned it to caramel and honey. I was getting into the rhythm of this when the bus lurched and came to a shuddering stop. We sat there for a minute, the driver, the other five passengers and me, letting the realization soak in.

The driver looked back at us, his lips pursed into a pained expression that might have been a permanent feature. "Alright," he said, "everybody off. There'll be another bus along in about twenty minutes."

I went out the side door and started walking West on Belmont, crossing Pulaski against the light and leaving the stalled bus behind. Five more minutes on the bus would now mean fifteen or twenty on foot. At least it would go faster than if I was sitting on a bench waiting for another one to limp by. But it had to be ninety degrees or more. By the time I reached work, I'd be soaked though.

"Hey! Hey, you!" Behind me the girl in the print dress was trying to catch up, her precarious balance over two-inch heels forcing her into an awkward running walk. As she reached where I stood waiting for her, she let out a quick deep breath and smiled, holding up a cigarette.

"Have you got a light?"

I don't smoke, but I have so many friends that do, that I carry a book of matches out of habit. I pulled the book from my back pocket, tore out a match and lit the cigarette she held like a surrogate for elegance.

Lighting a smoke for someone else gives you a chance to examine them close up for a few moments. She wasn't too bad. Attractive, like you'd find in a redneck neighborhood bar where construction workers and their ex-girlfriends go. She had a look about her that suggested she was the ex-girlfrined of quite a few of them. But still, like I said, kind of pretty.

"You going that way?" She asked, using the lit end of the cigarette to point the way I'd been walking when she called.

"Yeah," I said, "how about you?"

She nodded as she took another drag off the cigarette and let it out.

"Can I walk with you? I hate walking alone."

It was fine with me.

I walk fast even when I try not to, but she didn't seem to have trouble keeping up. We walked on for a block or so and, as I looked over, the bob/jiggle that her breasts made with each step caught my eye. I was still looking when she looked up. She poked me in the ribs with her elbow and gave an embarassed but flattered kind of smile.

I was starting to realize that I wouldn't be making it in to work.

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