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by Anna Lea Jancewicz

She was wearing a Spider-Man t-shirt and she spit on the sidewalk. That was the first time he saw her. The bus was late, the sky was crinkled and white. It looked like she’d cut her own bangs, and she was wearing a hospital bracelet. But there was something about her, maybe the curve of her colossal ass, maybe the way she bit her lip, her jaw sliding side-to-side, as she squinted into the distance, looking for the lumbering #4 DOWNTOWN to come rolling into view like a great wheeled land mammal that should’ve been extinct.

Her eyes were brown and moist. His stop was before hers, so he never saw where she got off. But he started riding the bus more often, just to look for her. It was like searching all of deep-space to find a sister star, a sibling to his own heart, born of the same nebula. He bought Spider-Man comics. He carried them in a plastic grocery bag. She might like them.

He guessed at her name. Beth, Yvonne, Kendra, Lisa. He thought about her in the shower. He thought about the pearlescent shampoo in his palm being the glob of spit that launched from her mouth onto the concrete. He imagined how she would look folding his laundry. He imagined dancing with her to David Bowie, he imagined serious moonlight.

It was a surprise when he saw her again, not on the bus after all. He turned a corner at the library, and there she was, scowling at thin volumes of poetry, her lips downturned into a crescent of fleshy moon, her forehead furrowed like spring fields. She was wearing a pink t-shirt with cartoon rabbits on it. He saw dazzle, like when he pressed on his eyelids with his thumbs. And he didn’t have the comics with him.

His hands shook as he looked up Spider-Man in the catalog. He mistyped, losing the r, retyped. 741.51 LEE, and he rushed to the shelf, as if some other patron might be on their way to claim it right then. He slid it off the shelf, carried it like it was precious, because it was precious. He stood several feet from her, held out his offering, smiled thoroughly as he asked Do you like Spider-Man?

Her flip-flops smacked her heels, and her shorts bunched between her thighs, as she took rapid menacing steps toward him. No, I do not like Spider-Man, you piece-a-shit she snarled, backing him up against the 640s, Home & Family Management. Who told you I like Spider-Man? Get the fuck outta here! What’re you a creep?

I’m so sorry he whimpered. He shook his head no, no, no, held up the Spider-Man book like a shield between them. Could I just ask your name? Samantha, Amber, Joyce, Fiona. She sized him up: his white sneakers, his khakis. Horse-head belt buckle. Blinking eyes, receding hairline. She spit at his feet. He laid down his bus pass and walked away.

Anna Lea Jancewicz lives in Norfolk, Virginia, where she homeschools her children and haunts the public libraries. She was an Associate Editor at Night Train, and her writing has appeared or is forthcoming at Atticus Review, Hobart, Necessary Fiction, Phantom Drift, and many other venues. Her flash fiction Marriage was chosen for The Best Small Fictions 2015. She is working on her first novel. Yes, you can say Jancewicz: Yahnt-SEV-ich. More at: https://annajancewicz.wordpress.com/