Leroy stood on the curb, kicking loose gravel around aimlessly. He looked at the lines and grooves in the concrete. He stared harder at them, hoping to see some sort of message hidden within. He looked up at the road. He looked at his father’s wristwatch, hung loosely around his wrist. The bus was late, he thought, as he made his way to the edge of the kerb and sat down. He looked at his hands: the lines on them looked very much like the ones set in concrete. Except those lines were set in white cement and his were set in his chocolate-coloured, breathing self.
High school was usually the stage for all kinds of drama, almost always centred around the other gender. Hormones spiked up to an all time high, driving teenagers to do things they would look back and grin sheepishly at with a casual shrug. Not for Leroy. He had found girls friendly, but that’s where it stopped. Leroy had a secret he’d never told anybody, not even Eric, who was the closest thing he had to a best friend. He’d had a couple of horrifying dreams where he was in tight embrace with another boy, their lips locked. Just the thought made his insides churn. Was it normal? No, it couldn’t possibly be - but he couldn’t help notice the way he stopped breathing when he saw a particularly attractive male model on the cover page of a men’s magazine. How he wished he could … and then his face would burn, reminding him of how embarrassed he should be.
* * * *
Leroy stands on the curb, his school bag slung over his shoulder. He glances at his watch. There is still time. He taps his feet and hums nonchalantly, staring at those very same lines in the concrete. They were so fine and they never seemed to end. A blaring sound of a honk snapped him out his intent study of the pavement. He looked up. It was a new bus. The driver impatiently made frantic gestures asking him to get on. He jumped on. The bus was almost empty except for a few other black kids from the neighbourhood. He made his way down the aisle, looking down as he usually did. He stopped short suddenly.There was a bright yellow tape stuck horizontally across the aisle. The bus lurched forward and he walked on towards the back of the bus and took a seat, ignoring the tape. He laid his head back and closed his eyes. Sleep overtook him.
He awoke when he felt a sting across his face. He forced his eyes open and saw three figures standing tall above him. One of them raised his hand and slapped him again. They smirked at each other and then laughed. Leroy was now wide awake. He rubbed his face and quickly glanced out of the window. They were out of the black neighbourhood and were rumbling steadily through the white part of town. So that’s where these guys had gotten in, he thought. Fear gripped him as he realized they were staring at him menacingly. He looked down at the floor of the bus. He only looked up when one of them said, “Why are you here?” He sneered and added threateningly, “And what makes you think you could cross that line?” He pointed to the yellow tape. The three of them were surrounding him, blocking the view of other people on the bus. Leroy no longer felt fear. He had seen enough lines, in the cement, in his hands, in his mind. He looked at them in the face and said, “Your yellow line doesn’t count, I didn’t even see it.” He braced himself for another sting, but nothing came. They raised their eyebrows. He looked out of the window. They’d reached school. He took a deep breath and smiled to himself. That was easy, he thought.