Sunday, November 25, 2012

BUS STORY # 316 (Rainy Day Women)

What just happened? by busboy4
What just happened?, downloaded from Alberto Ayora’s essay ”Think Zombie” on the website ACV.


A light rain has been falling. When we pull up to the stop, there are two women sitting on the bench. One of them turns to the other, says something, then comes to the door with her bike.

I’m surprised the driver lets her on with the bike. We’re pretty empty, but the bike rack is empty, too. Must be because of the rain.

She’s young, maybe late 20s, with her hair pulled back and tight into a thick braid. It looks like a hawser. She sits on the bench seat across from the driver, and pulls her bike up in front of her.

The bus pulls forward to the light and stops.

The girl looks over her shoulder, out the window, to where the other woman is sitting in the rain, looking at a cell phone. A rueful little smile and a quiet shake of the head.

The woman on the bench looks older. Mother and daughter? I don't think so. It doesn't feel that way at all.

The driver asks her why her friend is sitting in the rain.

Because she doesn’t have money for the bus.

The driver opens the door and calls to the woman.

The woman comes to the door.

He asks her if she needs a ride.

She says she doesn’t have any money.

It’s all right, he tells her. Come in out of the rain.

She does.

“Thank you,” she says. “Thank you.”

She takes the window seat near the younger woman. She is older, maybe early 40s. The younger woman smiles at her, says something, The older woman replies, then turns and looks out the window. The younger woman looks at her for a while, smile fading, then turns away.

Two friends who got into a fight? Two strangers? Did the older woman ask her for bus fare and the younger woman not give her anything? Did the younger woman not have anything to give? Did she refuse? Or maybe the younger woman offered the older woman bus fare and the older woman refused.

We all ride in silence for a while. I watch the younger woman’s face. It is a plain, earnest face. Large eyes. She looks like someone who has something to say and is just waiting for the right moment.

She does say something when the other woman turns back from the window and looks toward her. Again, the exchange is brief. And quiet. I can’t hear either one of them. But I can tell the older woman doesn’t want to talk.

Then, several stops later, the older woman speaks first. The younger woman turns in her seat, focuses intently, listens, speaks, listens. speaks.

I can hear bits of what the young woman is telling her. “...you can...you don’t have to...there are places you can go...”

The younger woman is firm, but kind. Insistent, but gentle. And patient.

I’ve got a story: the older woman has impetuously fled an abusive situation. Fled to the bus stop because that’s all she’s got at the moment to make her escape. Fled with nothing but a cell phone -- no money, no purse, just the clothes on her back. And now, sitting on the bus, she is overcome with the realization of what she has just done: burned a bridge behind her, and now she doesn’t know where she’s going, or what she’s going to do at the inevitable end of the line. And she is telling this to a younger woman who is not only listening, but who is willing and, it appears, able to help.

I reach my stop as this discussion is unfolding, and I walk home in the rain, wondering how different my bus story is from the bus story going on right now in the bus moving farther and farther away from where I got off.

__________


At the top of this story, this still from the iconic scene in the film The Graduate was downloaded from Alberto Ayora’s essay ”Think Zombie” on the website ACV, a “student-written, student-run blog at Amherst College.”

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