At first glance he appears to be an average passenger: grey sweatshirt, Levi’s jeans, Dallas Cowboys cap, and a world weary expression. Nothing out of the ordinary on the Austin Metro. On my second pass I notice the outliers, his eyebrows. Not average. They’re a pair of delicately plucked arcs anomalously set on his strong featured face. I sharpen, looking for more clues. This guy is built like a boxer. Muhammad Ali. Dark skinned, tall, and heavyset, he occupies his bus seat with a presence. He’s not old enough for a cane, but he has a wooden one resting between his legs. It’s capped with a hypnotic golden-eyed snake and both of his large brown palms rest firmly on it, one above the other.

His leg itches and he lowers a hand to scratch it. He tends to the itch with lazy, luxurious strokes. It’s subtle but there’s something deliberate and practiced about his gesture. It’s not the brisk, matter-of-fact way a man usually scratches his leg. This is a slow, sensual performance by sprawled fingers that seem to have all the time in the world. And there’s more. His fingernails are long, artificial, and covered with chipping nail polish that looks like a shade of “Disco Night Sparkle.” I check his ears and my guess is correct: pierced but no earrings.

A vision overwhelms me as we cruise down Guadalupe Street.The boxer adjusts her corset, stares the mirror down, and slips a giant chandelier earring into each lobe. The earrings are dripping with bright imitation rubies and she likes the way they brush against her neck as she strides down the stage, her snake-eyed cane spitting ferocity into the whooping crowd.