had logo

We are on a tour bus, Philippa and I, somewhere in the dark ocean green ripples of the Scottish Highlands, when our guide screeches into the bus speaker, “Are we missing anyone?” His voice flows in a way that makes it feel like the bus is moving, though we are parked outside of a rest stop. I attempt to pull back my hair—catching a whiff of the hot plastic smell that clings to my clothes as a result of sitting in these seats the past two days—then remember I can’t and let my curls puff around my ears. One of my friends back home calls my new haircut a “bisexual bob,” and I laugh and say little else because I can’t admit that part of myself yet. Philippa taps my knee and points to the two empty seats in front of us. They were filled by a couple ten minutes before. The tour guide huffs, pushes his tiny glasses up his nose. Philippa smiles. We think the couple is funny, specifically the woman, with her dyed black hair and eyeliner smudged charcoal. She makes jokes under her breath about the guide being a knob. “I think she’s from Liverpool,” Philippa told me the day before, in-between swapping stories of our college years, of frat parties, of drinking on rooftops. We are not as messy as we believe we are: I’ve been perfecting my resume during this vacation; she’s off to Oxford to obtain her PhD. We have never been late getting back to the bus. A vein in the guide’s neck is a pulsing blue fish. The couple returns. The smell of tobacco brushes my face. As the bus kicks up gravel, the woman from Liverpool says, “I will finish my goddamn cigarette as I please, thank you.” And while Philippa and I giggle into our wrists at her stingingly sweet “thank you,” I am more entranced by how the woman trills the word “cigarette,” like bubbles frothing in water or a pinwheel lapping the wind. I’ve never smoked before, but I twirl the syllables along the inside of my mouth, marveling at how beautiful it is to say something you want out loud. Sunlight blooms across our laps and Philippa says, “Look, the mountains,” but I can’t speak.