Sunday, February 14, 2010

BUS STORY # 171 (The Old Couple)


They’re sitting to my right, across the aisle from me and one row up.

At first, I hardly notice them. It’s the woman’s headscarf, and then her face, which get my attention.

The scarf is dark red, with what looks like a corn stalk pattern in muted greens and yellows. She has it knotted under her chin, and even without seeing her face, I’d’ve thought “old, peasant.”

Her face is ancient and deeply etched with crisscrossing lines. Her expression is of near-infinite patience. Her eyes change back and forth between closed and half-open, but she is not drowsy. Watching her, I realize she is engaged in an ongoing conversation with the old man sitting next to her in the aisle seat.

He’s wearing a buffalo plaid flannel shirt and some dark mustard-colored pants. I see one slippered foot, and a sock that reminds me of the support hose my mother had to wear in the hospital after her surgery to prevent clots. He’s wearing glasses. (And I realize she is not.) I can see past his ear through the left lens, and it is thick. He’s wearing a mesh baseball cap, and I can see through the mesh that he is almost completely bald. A wooden cane hangs from the seatback in front of him.

The conversation is inaudible, but I can actually see it. When she is not speaking, she faces straight ahead, and her eyes are closed. When she does speak, she turns her face ever so slightly leftward, and her eyes open, half-lidded.

He keeps his head facing forward whether he is speaking or listening. But when she speaks, he tilts his head toward her. When she is finished, his head straightens back up and he responds quickly.

She waits a minute or so before responding, as if mulling over what he has said, or what strategy she should use in making her response.

Once, he raises his voice. I can hear his voice, but it is still much too quiet to hear the words. I sense he is provoked. While he is speaking, the woman closes her eyes and shakes her head, very gently, no.

I get the impression this conversation has been going on for the past half century, with little or no change in form, content or outcome.

At this point, I am daydreaming. I’m imagining them young and in love, and how each of them looked to the other. I’m wondering if either of them knew then how their conversations would eventually go, and if either one did, I can guess what made it not matter.

They are still talking with, or at, one another when I reach my stop. It’s been a good 20 minutes or so.

I imagine something else. After one of them is gone, the other will continue the conversation alone. And there will be precious little satisfaction in not being contradicted.
__________

The photo at the top of this story is titled Old Couple taking one last bus ride?!? and is posted with the kind permission of hirenhp. You can see this and all hirenhp’s photos on Flickr at:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/hirenhp/2571612577/

8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kind of a bittersweet Valentine's story. BBBH

3:05 PM  
Blogger Busboy said...

Much like life and love itself, ¿que no?

6:12 AM  
Blogger Eve.E.B. said...

do people mind you taking pictures of their heads?

1:32 PM  
Blogger Busboy said...

Actually, Eve, this photo was downloaded from Flickr by hirenhp (see beneath the photo, and also the acknowledgment at the end of the story). I don't know whether or not this couple knew the photo was being taken. I myself try to avoid photographing people when taking snapshots for Bus Stories. But I've been delighted to have been given permission to use others' photos where the subject's face was on full display. The most recent example would be Carlos Ebert's photo for the January 17 posting. I thought it was both wonderful and perfect for the post. Interesting question.

2:17 PM  
Blogger Eve.E.B. said...

okay that's alright then lol I was only being a little curious cause image if you were on a bus and some one just started taken pictures of you... would be a little freaky :O and yeah that's a pretty good one! cool blog though keep it up !

12:51 PM  
Blogger Busboy said...

Thank you for your kind words about the blog, Eve. I'd feel a little freaky, too, if someone started taking picures of me on the bus. I think that's why I try to avoid photographing people for my bus snapshots. I can see how your original question might lead to some pondering.

1:57 PM  
Blogger Eve.E.B. said...

Yeah but now I think about it wouldn't it make your blog even more awesome if you just took a random picture! People always look funny when you see them on buses! Well I do.
Speaking of pondering... check my blog out its not that good and its only about my boring daily life. Still check it out if you want to!

http://ponderingdaily.blogspot.com/

4:32 PM  
Blogger Busboy said...

You could be right. I usually have the camera at hand, so you never know. By the way, I did check out your blog. That is why I ended my last comment as I did ("I can see how your original question might lead to some pondering.")

7:23 PM  

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