Sunday, October 25, 2009

BUS STORY # 156 (An Unkind Cut)

He looks 10, maybe 15 years younger than me. But he looks like his years have been harder than mine. We’re sitting side by side, waiting for the bus.

“This bus goes downtown, right?”

“Yes, it does,” I answer.

“I haven’t ridden in a while.”

We sit in silence for a bit.

“Took me all day to get my stitches out,” he says.

He points to a two-inch scar along his left jugular. It looks like an angry red slit.

He tells me he was supposed to be at the clinic over at UNMH at nine. He got there at 10, and didn’t get his stitches out till two. Then he had to catch the bus over here.

“When you gotta take the bus everywhere, it just ends up taking all day, you know?”

I tell him I know what he means.

“I spent another two hours with HSD. I’m going home now – the day’s shot.”

“HSD” is the Human Services Department. The state has a branch office nearby.

“That’s some scar,” I say.

“There was a woman involved.”

“Mm-mm-mm,” I say, and shake my head sympathetically.

“She didn’t do it. It was her crazy ex-boyfriend.”

“You didn’t know she had an ex-boyfriend?”

He explains he knew she had an ex, but her ex wasn’t crazy when they broke up or afterwards. They even met shortly after he moved in, when the ex showed up to pick up the rest of his stuff from her apartment.

“He was fine. We got along good.”

“How long ago was that?

“Two, two and a half months.”

“And he never bothered you all after that?”

“Never saw him again until that afternoon.”

He starts counting the days backward.

“Man, that was almost two weeks ago.”

He shakes his head in disbelief.

“Was he drunk?”

He has no idea. He was “blindsided.” He says he opened the door, saw the ex sitting on the couch, said “What’s going on?”

The ex got up and slammed a glass into the side of his face. He doesn’t remember much after that except stumbling downstairs to the front of the building and that there was a lot of blood.

“They told me another five minutes and I’d’a bled to death.”

He shows me small lacerations and puncture marks on the side of his face, then a laceration on his left wrist.

“Defending myself,” he explains about the wrist.

Before his story, I’d seen the side of his face but thought the redness was sunburn and the marks acne scarring. I did notice his left eye looked not exactly swollen, but distorted.

“I’m probably gonna have to go back for this,” he says, pointing to a swollen place on his left cheek. He explains one of the lacerations went clear through to the inside of his cheek. He says he still can’t eat solid food, and he has to drink with a straw or else the liquid leaks out into his cheek.

“Did your girlfriend tell you what happened?”

He remembers she came to the hospital to see him, but he doesn’t remember much more than that. Later, she called him to tell him she’d been evicted from her apartment.

“I was gonna go try and find her, but it’s too late now. I’m going back home.”

And then he adds, “To my mother’s house.”

I’ve noticed throughout this conversation that I’ve heard no anger in his voice. There is instead a kind of dazed, it's-still-unreal tone. That, and a weary resignation.

We board the bus, and he sits in the seat in front of me.

“You sure this bus goes downtown?”

“Straight to the ATC. Where do you live?”

“Coors. I can take the 66 from downtown.”

I suggest maybe he should take the Rapid Ride Red Line.

“What’s that?”

I explain about the Red Line, about how he could get off at Central and catch it just across the street. It would save him a lot of time.

When we get to Central, I get off, he stays on.

Before getting off, I put my hand lightly on his shoulder.

“Good luck.”

“Thanks, bro.”

Thanks to BB in Marshfield, MA, for this week's feature story: Two Weeks Ago In: Boston.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

BUS STORY # 155 (Portrait # 5: Immigrant Kids)

A group of high school students boards at Louisiana. A bunch of them – six, to be exact, four boys and two girls – sit in the two bench seats in front of me and in the two seats across the aisle from me.

I go back to my magazine, but find myself halfway watching and listening. In a few minutes, I sense there’s something different about these kids, but what?

I lower the magazine and start paying attention.

The first thing I notice is their clothes. I see the usual jeans and jackets, shirts and blouses, except, except . . . something is slightly off key. They’re neat and clean. They’re colorful, and put together as if which colors look good together matters. Everything is tucked in. So what is it about these clothes that make them like RC Cola to Pepsi – close, but no cigar?

I move on to their hair. Hmm. Not a single one of them has that slept-in-all-night-and-just-rolled-out-of-bed look. Instead, the guys look like they’ve taken some pains to look fashionable. The girls’ hair is pretty conventional – one with hair neatly pulled back in a luxurious ponytail, the other with shoulder-length hair flipped at the shoulders.

OK. I’ve snapped that I am on to something here. What is it?

Big clue: They’ve been in animated discussion with one another ever since boarding the bus. All six are leaning in toward one another, and I’ve spotted the two wits in the group. One of them is the girl sitting in front of me. The other is the guy sitting across from her. The conversation is non-stop, and: It is good natured. There is a lot of laughter, no edginess. Everybody has something to say.

And – D’oh! I’ve got it! – it’s all in a differently accented and very rapid-fire Spanish – I can’t really make any sense of what they’re saying. And I hear no English whatsoever except for the name of the high school they’re heading for.

They’re immigrant kids. New ones, of course, because despite their obviously studied attempts to look American, they still stand out from the crowd.

It isn’t until later that I realize I missed the dead-giveaway clue: They were all carrying books.

The photo at the top of this story is titled Bus Stop and is posted with the kind permission of zzelfozz. zzelfozz notes the image was published as a cover for the Italian literary magazine LINEA D'OMBRA founded by Elfo. You can see this and all zzelfozz's photos on Flickr at:

Sunday, October 11, 2009

BUS STORY # 154 (Poetry On The Bus 2009: The Winners)

The winners and honorable mentions have been posted on the city website for several weeks now, and the poems are already appearing on the city buses.

The categories have been expanded. Last year’s youth category is now divided into two categories: Grades 1st through 5th and Grades 6th through 12th.

At the top of this posting is the 1st place winner in the Adult category: "Upon Seeing The Photographs Of Sacred Places In The Southwest" by Mary Dudley.

Note that you can enlarge the posters by clicking on the image.

Here are the rest of the winners:

2nd Place Adult: "Sunflower Days" -- Naomi Sandweiss

3rd Place Adult: "Transformation" -- Joann Sheets

4th Place Adult: "Musical Light" -- Katherine Hauth

1st Place Grades 6th through 12th: "Memories" -- Isabella Jaramillo

2nd Place Grades 6th through 12th: "Vertical Transit" -- Cloie Logan

3rd Place Grades 6th through 12th: "The Eyes" -- Dreanna Valencia

4th Place Grades 6th through 12th: "Nature's Perfection" -- Rachel Roth

1st Place Grades 1st through 5th: "Remembering Together/Grandma" -- Gisele Carriaga

2nd Place Grades 1st through 5th: "Nature" -- Nicolas Fierro

3rd Place Grades 1st through 5th: "Summer" -- Alicia Varoz

4th Place Grades 1st through 5th: "So Nice" -- Bria Meyers

Busboy's congratulations to all involved.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

BUS STORY # 153 (The Barber)

We’re headed home on the 50. We’re already past Avenida Cesar Chavez, so it’s its usual crowded self.

Up front, in the aisle-facing seats, a guy leans forward and asks the guy across from him, “Is your name Leroy?”

The guy says no.

“Are you a barber?”

“Yes. Yes I am. Did I cut your hair?”

“Sure did. It was a good haircut, but next time I came back, you were gone.”

The barber is a slight, wiry fellow, a youngish-early 40s, maybe. He’s wearing a long-sleeved, blue pinstripe shirt and what look like Toreador pants, black. Black-framed glasses, and a black cap with a short bill turned three-quarters backwards. The cap comes off looking like a jaunty beret.

The guy across the aisle is maybe late 50s, regular build. He’s got on cargo shorts and a faded purple T-shirt. His hair is short.

“Yeah,” says the barber, “I had to quit because they wanted me to work five days a week. They were great to work for, but I came down here to take care of my grandparents.”

He says he moved here from Kansas City, and he still does a few haircuts on the side.

“You gave me a good one,” says the other guy.

The barber doesn’t offer him an opening to one of those on-the-side haircuts. But he does say he might have found another place that will let him work three days a week for just three or four hours a shift.

“You might check it out next time you need a haircut,” he suggests.

As usual, just about everyone gets off at Central. I see the barber walking with a young couple. They pass by me on their way toward the UNM campus. He’s talking quite animatedly to them about art.