Sûrah I
THE OPENING
"Show us the straight path..."

1
PROLOGUE

"Please Hold On."

Okay, here goes:
this the twenty-foe Fillmo'e... Check that.

This is the twenty-four Fillmore. Forget the vernacular. Ebonics, the textbooks call it—affirmative-action excuse for African-American English. Grammatically incorrect by Caucasian-American standards. Might as well paste a sign on my forehead reads "DUMB." As in undereducated. As in destined to fulfill my cultural heritage, i.e. five-times likelier than White-boys to cool my heels in jail. "Muthafucka" is scrawled, carved, and etched back to front. "We sits in de back" by unspoken rule, like we're drawn here via some obverse-Rosa-Parks magnet. MUNI must install them to ensure we keep our place.

"Eating, Drinking and Smoking Are Prohibited On All Transit Vehicles."

So of course the floor is littered with fast-food wrappers and Styrofoam. No cigarette butts, contrarily; San Francisco is militant about non-smoker rights. Smells like piss in the stairwell; another homeless lunatic must've sprung a leak.

What else?

"Please Reserve The Front Seats For Seniors And Persons With Disabilities."

No cushions. Used to give butts a break on (un-slashed) upholstery. Now it's Polyvinyl—comfy as concrete.

Is that enough detail? What's important to get across is that I'm riding on a public bus. And that I'm thinking... listening... observing—not just self-sequestered; plugged into an iPod, using a cellphone, or buried in a book. Furthermore I'm imagining, inventing whys and wherefores in accordance with certain clues. About the passengers, of course. One most especially. "Glorianne," I've dubbed her, after the paperback she's devouring. A pun, of sorts, on The Meaning of the Glorious Koran, her book's title. I take it she's religious? Brilliant deduction! I'd also say she hails from out-of-state. Out-of-country, might be more accurate. Odd how folks from abroad stand out against homegrown varieties. Girl's dressed like an American: baggy sweatshirt, Nikes, tights under shark-bit jeans. But something about—her aura, I guess you'd call it—labels her a foreigner.

"A MUNI Security Reminder:
On Crowded Buses Always Protect Purses And Wallets."

A Muslim on the "Fillmo'e" and she's not Black? Must be a student; she's highlighting passages. My age? In grad school, then. "Been there, done that," radiates from her features—which aren't  so much attractive as they are... intriguing. I'm not on the make, let me hasten to communicate; I'm on the lookout for my novel's leading character. The novel I've just conceived. A protagonist worthy of my efforts. The novel I'm bound-and-determined—may God be my witness—to write. About a heroine who suggests some consequential story line. Anything to prolong my status as "A-B-D"—All But Dissertation; mine's acutely stalled.