Sunday, February 10, 2008


BUS STORY # 71 (Something In The Way She Moves)

The Rapid Ride has pulled out of the inbound stop at Louisiana and is almost up to speed when the brakes come on. The driver pulls over to the sidewalk and the front doors open. Through the windshield, I can see a young woman running towards the bus.

I’ve seen other buses pull over like this on occasion, but never a Rapid Ride. When the woman comes on board and breathlessly thanks the driver, I have an idea why he stopped. She is, as we used to say, a looker, and the driver and the rest of us are doing just that.

She rummages through her purse and can’t seem to find the fare. She says something to the driver, then sits herself down. In the seat across the aisle from the driver. In the seats reserved for the elderly and handicapped. Which is, I admit, really OK since there are no elderly or handicapped needing that seat right now. But I’ve already got a hunch about how this is going to play out.

She makes a display of working her purse – and produces a dollar! She bounces up to the till, and I’ve just lost a dollar bet with myself that she wouldn’t come up with the fare and would charm her way out of it. Just when you think you’ve got ‘em figured
out . . . She and the driver exchange a laugh, and she’s back in her seat.

There’s a lovely ripeness about her that puts her beyond her 20s. As I continue watching her, I am surprised to realize she’s not beautiful, or even pretty, really. She’s . . . attractive.

I try out other words, but “attractive” is the one. But now I’m wondering what it is about her that makes it the right word. So I keep on looking. For answers.

There’s her hair. It’s long and straight and black, and one way or another, it’s always in motion. That’s part of it, but that isn’t really it, exactly.

She’s wearing blue jeans with black boots, a black blouse, a short, puffy white jacket, and a purple muffler. She looks tall and slim, but after a while, I figure out it’s the narrow leg jeans with the short, puffy jacket on top that makes her seem so. In fact, the more I look, the more I see her clothes don’t seem to be part of it, either. They’re neat and clean, but her jeans aren’t skintight, her boot heels aren't spiked, there’s no skin showing . . . she doesn’t need to employ the usual tricks.

It, I am coming to understand, is an attitude. That, and a killer instinct for using what she’s been given. The three guys in front of me holding on to their hard hats and lunch pails are working hard at not being obvious about watching her arranging and rearranging her jacket and muffler, her hair, her purse, herself in the seat . . . There’s nothing suggestive or patently flirty in any of these movements, and yet somehow she exudes . . . somehow we sense . . . there’s a certain . . . je ne sais pas quoi . . .

(Later, I will regret not looking at the other women on the bus during this time. I have a theory that whatever the quoi is this woman was projecting, it wasn’t distracting just the male ridership. I’m thinking of Lester Bangs’ reaction to his first and only Elvis performance – the fat, over-the-hill, Las Vegas Elvis, at that – where he unexpectedly experienced what he called “an erection of the heart.” Or me in my early 30s, mesmerized by Prince in the Little Red Corvette video on MTV. There’s a certain breath-taking, same-sex recognition of it that has nothing to do with wanting or even fantasizing about the other – unless you are fantasizing about being the other. Elvis had it. Prince, for all I know, may still have it. I’m thinking she had some of it, too. Maybe not in Elvis spades, but who does? If I had just looked at the other women on the bus that morning, I would know if I was on to something or just romanticizing.)

She gets off at San Mateo. When the doors open, she does not move rearward to the exits, but moves right to the front door and steps in front of the first guy climbing aboard. She smiles and says, “Excuse me,” and he is only too happy to step back and out of the way for her. I didn’t make myself a bet this time, but I give myself the dollar back anyway.

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