Sunday, June 03, 2012

BUS STORY # 291 (The Last 12 Hours: Rider # 1)


Every once in a while, I’ll see a rider I haven’t seen in a long time.

Sometimes that rider used to be a regular -- or still is, just on a different schedule or different route. Sometimes the previous encounters have been infrequent, or random. And sometimes there was just a memorable only-once.

Maybe I’ve talked with them, maybe I haven’t. Maybe I’ve written about them, maybe not.

But such occurrences are infrequent.

So it got my attention when I had four such reunions, all bus-story worthy, in 12 hours; one on the bus home, and three the next morning on the bus into work.

***


On my way home, among the large crowd boarding across the street from Project Share is a woman who looks familiar. She takes the seat next to me. When she starts talking to the guy across the aisle, I am sure I know this woman from the bus somewhere.

She’s not a young woman, and if she’s an old woman, she looks younger than she is. That’s the best I can do with that.

After a while, it starts to come back to me. I remember her riding the Lomas bus on the way to work, but it’s been a long time. I think she worked in the medical field, or else was going to nursing school, but I don’t remember where she got on or off the bus.

And now I remember, I think she’s a Christian lady, although I cannot recall where that memory comes from. I may be conflating her with another rider, who also may have been in the medical field. Or who was going to school. Or maybe both. Or...

She’s wearing jeans and a white blouse, and she is pleasant and polite and that is what I also now remember about her. Always a nice smile.

I’m wondering if I should say something. But I don’t.

She does.

And it is nothing I could have anticipated.

She simply turns to me and tells me how funny it was today that several people told her she looked darker than usual. And when she looked in a mirror, she saw they were right.

She tells me, as if to make sure I understand she knows how funny this must sound, that she is an “African-American,” but that the sunblock she’s been using has, without her realizing it, made her look lighter. She forgot the sunblock today, and then started getting comments.

She smiles and shakes her head with wonder and delight.

I don’t know what to say. Whatever I did say I don’t even recall, and that is probably to spare myself the embarrassment of my ineptitude. But after a pause, I just ask.

“Didn’t you use to ride the Lomas bus?”

Yes she did, and she answers in a way that tells me she remembers me, too.

And wasn’t she working as a nurse?

Oh, yes, that was quite a while ago. But people started wanting so much more than she was able to do.

This explanation is crystal clear to her, but I can only guess at what she means.

Before I can ask anything more, she asks if I’m still riding the Lomas bus.

Yes I am.

She wants to know how I’ll get there from here. I explain I will catch the Rapid and take it up to Lomas, and transfer.

She tells me she just has to catch the Central.

That tells me she’s moved, as well as either changed jobs or, given that she got on at the Project Hope stop, is possibly unemployed. That latter would be a story I’d very much want to hear: how someone with nursing experience could end up unemployed. And how is she getting by, if that’s the case? She does not look like she’s on the street.

But I’m not gonna get a shot at the story because we are at Central now. I follow her down the stairs and out on the sidewalk. We stand facing each other for a moment. I have the fleeting impulse to ask her if I can buy her a coffee here at the McDonald’s.

It is, of course, a terrible idea, for more reasons than I have fingers to count them on.

I let it pass.

I’m sorry not to have the story, but I console myself with the thought that, sooner or later, we’ll likely cross paths on the bus again. As my wife might put it, the story will be told when it’s meant to be told.

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