A hen, its soiled feathers flapping its reek of chicken feed and excrement her way, has leapt onto the seat in front of her. She wonders which passenger’s grip it has escaped from. Perhaps from the arms of the woman with hairs sprouting from her chin out of the walnut shell her skin has become with age, skin that is clinging to the bones of her face and limbs, limbs that are sticks that will break from the weight of the basket of roasted chickpeas at her feet she will carry to sell. Or from the boy cradling in his lap a papaya riddled with worms, clothed in nothing but shorts and caked in dust, except where the mucus from his nose is snaking its way down his face and into his mouth. Or from the man perched between sleep and not-sleep, his eyes gazing at nothing, or perhaps at the universe, his arms peppered with pricks, from his pocket peering a syringe waiting to be filled. For any of them, she thinks, or for any of these souls who have folded themselves into the spaces between the flesh and bones of strangers, this hen might be the purpose of their ride today in this tin can clanking its way down the path of dirt and stones leading them to the bazaar. There this hen could be sold for medicine to ward off the pain in one’s joints, for bread to ward off hunger, for heroin to ward off the world. It could be sold for visions, the visions she wants to buy from the man sitting on a rag under the tree next to the tea stall who will lie to her about a housemaid job she will be offered and the vanishing of her diabetes and the return of her lover from the woman who has seduced him.
Lucky hen, she thinks, as its stench clogs her nostrils and it squawks into the body odor on the bus. You know nothing of the burden you carry, the burden of a busload of hopes.