Sunday, May 08, 2011

BUS STORY # 235 (Portrait # 12: The Reader)

I’d noticed her the day before. Or, rather, I’d noticed her hair, partly because it was all I could see of her, and partly because it reminded me of my wife’s.

My wife’s hair is silver-white, and it hangs straight. I still remember the time she told me she was tired of getting colored and permed, and how it was so damaging to her hair. And expensive. I told her if she was doing that for me, it wasn’t necessary.

She gave going natural a try. I’ve had a fondness for her hair ever since. So when I see the same hair on other women, I look.

That’s how I noticed my co-rider the day before, sitting at the driver’s end of the bench seat in the front, with a half dozen people between us blocking the view of anything more of her.

But this morning, the bus is emptier than usual. And so, when she boards and takes the same seat in front, I can see all of her now.

Her hair is more gray than silver, and it’s a little longer than my wife’s. She’s wearing a parka-like coat, jeans, and gray hiking boots. She’s got a red backpack and she’s carrying a trade-size paperback.

There is one person between us, a student who looks junior high to me. She flashes him a smile, and I see she’s missing two front teeth, the ones on the left. It’s still a nice smile. In fact, the missing teeth somehow make it all the more charming. She begins removing her backpack, and I notice she doesn’t let go of her book.

Once she’s settled, she smiles at the student again and begins a conversation with him. I can’t hear it. But in a short while, he pulls the cord.

When he gets up, she reaches out with her right hand -- her book is in her left -- and they shake. He goes and stands by the driver and waits there for his stop. I sense this kid was discomforted at being drawn into a conversation with this stranger of an adult.

She doesn’t look disappointed or discouraged. She unzips her coat a little, then takes off her glasses and hangs them in the zipper’s notch. She is still holding onto the book.

With her glasses off, her eyes are suddenly pretty. I feel a little shock when I look at her face and realize she must have been a looker in her day. Still is, really -- although I wouldn’t have seen that in junior high. The eyes, of course, but also a nice set of cheekbones and a fine nose.

She opens the book, curls the front page around the spine (ouch!) and begins. She’s holding the book in her left hand, and moving the little finger of her right along the rows of print. She mouths the words.

She’s focused from this point on. Once, there is a burst of laughter from the back which causes her to look up, smile (nice smile), then back to the book. I notice that, after a while, she quits using her finger to follow the lines, and the mouthing becomes less pronounced.

When a new rider boards and sits down beside her, she puts the book in her lap, smiles at her, and begins a conversation. After a while, she returns to the book, and to using her finger and distinctly mouthing the words.

When I get off, she’s back to just a murmuring of the reading.

How long has she been riding my bus? Was yesterday the first time, or just when I first noticed her? I can’t believe I didn’t notice her earlier. But, then, it took me a while to notice my wife that first time. Of course, that was before she’d gone natural.

The photo at the top of this story is titled “RedReader” and is posted with the kind permission of JimScolman. You can see this and all JimScolman’s photos on Flickr at:


Anonymous Brenda said...

I so look forward to your weekly blogs. Thank you for your consistency. Have a wonderful week and "see" you next Sunday!

8:56 AM  
Blogger Busboy said...

Brenda, that is quite a compliment. Thank you so much for your kind words.

1:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

very nice story, sweet, somehow a nice Mother's Day feeling to it. Thanks, BBBH

8:31 AM  
Blogger Busboy said...

Thank you, Anonymous. I didn't really have a Mother's Day story for this week. I'm glad you found something of Mother' Day in this post.

4:31 AM  

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