Short Fiction: By Mistake/On the Bus to Work

I can’t say anything because my hunger is tying my tongue, or maybe it’s my wrongness. My wrongness takes away my right to talk about what’s wrong.


Salamis Aysegul Sentug Tugyan


The hillsides are dotted with crows, eager to be elsewhere. They also have important matters to attend to. Me, the aimless passenger on this journey, is here by chance. To conceal my lack of purpose, I steal occasional glances at the bus clock, hoping to appear anxious like those rushing to work. We drive very slowly as “the bus is malfunctioning.”

You, like them, have a job to go to, colleagues to explain your tardiness to, and files in your lap. As you rest your head against the window, I notice the piercing on your petite nose. I try to recall my most worried expression, attempting to appear concerned like them. I become engrossed in your ponytail, and start to ponder at what time you usually loosen your hair. Then this becomes my primary concern in the world. Your rushed entrance into your home, the quick removal of your shoes, and the moment you relax on the couch and release your hair all at once. For a while, watching this fleeting moment from a distance becomes my job in this world. At that moment, you let your hair down, carefree, your mind lightens, while the usual sounds inside still flicker like neon lights, your colleagues, your boss, your father, and so on. Slowly, the television suppresses everything else, and your bare feet become like Hestia on the couch, stretching into space.

I’m looking at the bus clock again. See my bureaucratic fuss. See, I am worried too. See, I could be you.

Everyone has something to say about the teetering, old bus; the lady next to me is blaming the driver while biting into her green apple. Her grandson will pick her up from the station and take her home before going to work and her grandson will be late to work! The bite in the apple reminds me of the hole inside me, the anxiety of hunger, the most genuine void in the world. Yesterday, I only had a corn on the cob on the beach, when the sun had not set yet. I check my teeth in case any corn kernels are stuck, turning my head towards the barren hills — just in case you would look at me.

Wrong, says the bald man in a grey suit, working at some company, swinging his left arm in the air as he speaks. His silver watch draws pictures with the sun. A shiny gold ball rolls around the green velvet seats of the bus. My job becomes watching the ball in the green velvet for a while. My hunger stays vague for a while. A group of voices from ahead says they should ask for a refund. The moment I remember I don’t have a ticket, I feel you, looking at me. I look at the valleys of far mountains again. The wheat is swaying in unity. I feel ashamed.

As they say, “Let’s claim our rights,” I melt into my seat. As I look at the lilacs we slowly pass, my helplessness takes refuge in the shallow shore of my rights. “No, no, the driver was wrong,” the lady repeats, looking at me for approval. I can’t say anything because my hunger is tying my tongue, or maybe it’s my wrongness. My wrongness takes away my right to talk about what’s wrong. As if I hadn’t sneaked in through its open door and settled down, the bus wouldn’t have malfunctioned. You wouldn’t have received a rebuke from your boss. The songs in your ear, perhaps would be less resentful… The lady is happy, her grandson is happy. “The silver watch” has arrived at work on time!

If I hadn’t seen you, I might have forgotten all the wrongs of this world that belong to me.


Salamis Aysegul Sentug Tugyan is an award-winning writer, poet and academic from Cyprus. In her work, she spans the fields of meta-fiction studies, colonial history and women travelers of Cyprus, the contemporary novel, boredom studies and the philosophies of film, literature and performance. Salamis has published short stories, poetry, travelogues, and scholarly articles in English and Turkish, some of which have been translated into other languages. She is the co-screenwriter of the feature-length film, The Lost, which will be made later this year. Her book The Journal of Small Hearted Things was recently published in English, Greek and Turkish by Phaneromenis70 Culture Center, in Nicosia, where she exhibited postcards from 19th century Cyprus, sent by the protagonist of her soon-to-be published debut novel, a historiographical metafiction.

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