I don’t like being pawed by fucking strangers

Two men ogled her in the bus ticket line, one pushed his face close as he passed and said Lucky’s my middle name! He didn’t brush against her but he felt her up with his breath, the son of a bitch. Makina wasn’t used to that sort of thing. Not that she hadn’t experienced it, she just hadn’t let herself get used to it. She’d either tell them to fuck right off, or decide not to waste her time on such sad sacks; that’s what she decided this time. But not because she was used to it. She bought her ticket and boarded the bus. A couple of minutes later she saw the two men get on. They were hardly more than kids, with their peach fuzz and journey pride. Since they probably had no notion of the way real adventures rough you up, they must’ve thought they were pretty slick adventurers. They jostled each other down the aisle to their seats, a few rows behind Makina’s, but the one who had spoken to her came back and said with a smirk Think this is me, and sat down beside her. Makina made no reply. The bus pulled out; almost immediately Makina felt the first contact, real quick, as if by accident, but she knew that type of accident: the millimetric graze of her elbow prefaced ravenous manhandling. She sharpened her peripheral vision and prepared for what must come, if the idiot decided to persist. He did. Barely bothering to fake it, he dropped his left hand onto his own left leg, languidly letting it sag onto the seat and brush her thigh on the way back up, no harm intended, of course. Makina turned to him, stared into his eyes so he’d know that her next move was no accident, pressed a finger to her lips, shhhh, eh, and with the other hand yanked the middle finger of the hand he’d touched her with almost all the way back to an inch from the top of his wrist; it took her one second. The adventurer fell to his knees in pain, jammed into the tight space between his seat and the one in front, and opened his mouth to scream, but before the order reached his brain Makina had already insisted, finger to lips, shhhh, eh; she let him get used to the idea that a woman had jacked him up and then whispered, leaning close, I don’t like being pawed by fucking strangers, if you can believe it.

The boy couldn’t, judging by the way his eyes were bulging.

You crossing over to find a gig? Makina asked.

The boy nodded emphatically.

Then you’ll need every finger you’ve got, won’t you? Cause you can’t cook or pick with your tootsies, now, can you?

The boy shook his head no less emphatically.

So, Makina continued. Listen up, I’m going to let you go and you’re going to curl up with your little friend back there, and I swear on all your pain that if you even so much as think about me again, the only thing that hand’s going to be good for is wiping ass.

The boy opened his mouth but now it was Makina who shook her head.

You believe me? she asked, and as she did so pressed his finger a little farther back. You don’t believe me. You believe me?

Something in the boy’s tears told Makina he believed her. She released him and watched as he staggered back to his seat. She heard him sniveling for a while and his friend going Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit, over and over; in the meantime she let herself be lulled by the sight of the gray city fleeing past in the opposite direction.

Yuri Herrera, Signs Preceding The End Of The World, translated by Lisa Dillman, 2015.