Sunday, January 27, 2013

BUS STORY # 325 (Portrait # 20: Tanisha)


This afternoon, in a parking lot, I spotted a personalized license plate that read, “TANISHA”*

Tanisha is the name of a co-rider I haven’t seen in quite a while now. I found myself wondering if this was her car, and if this was the explanation for why I hadn’t seen her in a while.

I’d thought about writing about her several times before now, but the story was slight, really.

And because we’d actually talked once, and I knew a little bit about her, I felt I’d be cheating to make her one of the portrait series.

But there was just the one conversation, and it really has been a while...

I first saw her when I was waiting for the bus home. She was crossing the street, pulling one of those black leather computer bags on wheels behind her.

What I saw first, though, were her clothes.

Truth is, I don’t remember exactly what she was wearing that day. What I do remember is thinking she’d managed to pull off an office-appropriate ensemble with a jazzy African look. Kind of like a guy in a gray flannel suit and a Jerry Garcia tie, except a lot more tie.

The other thing I remember were the big black sunglasses. I never saw her without them, so I really don’t know what her face looks like. But my guess is if I had, I’d describe it more in terms of character than beauty. She always looked to me like someone who was smiling to herself because she knew exactly what was going on, and how to navigate it.

She was black, late 20s-early 30s. Compact. Tight. Legs more like a middle linebacker’s than a ballerina’s.

She looked great.

It wasn’t until later that I realized it wasn’t just the clothes she’d artfully put together, but how she wore them, that put the wow in her dress.

She wasn’t a regular. I probably saw her once a week, if that, either coming or going to work.

I don’t even recall where we were when I struck up the conversation. Probably waiting at the same stop to go home, where I first saw her.

In any case, I learned her name, that she was doing consultant work, and that she had moved out here from Virginia.

It was small talk. She was pleasant, but didn’t volunteer anything. I managed to turn her name into something else before the conversation was over. “Tanisha,” she corrected, with a brief, all-business smile.

It was a short talk.

But after that, she’d give me a nod and a quick smile when we saw one another either on the bus or at the stops.

The first time I saw her on the way to work, we got off at the same place, along with a lot of other riders. Not all that surprising since we also got on at the same place across the street.

She was bang out the door and off down the sidewalk. Girl could walk. I’d follow her down the sidewalk until we went our separate ways at the corner. Further on, I’d catch sight of her again. We’d be walking more parallel to one another, though she was always out front.

I came to really enjoy watching her walk -- and not for the reasons you are probably thinking. Watching her walk made me hear James Brown singing “Say it out loud/I’m black and I’m proud.”

But even more: It was the walk of a strong, smart, savvy, independent woman who had made something of herself, and who knew all these things about herself.

It just made me feel good.

So now that this license plate has gotten me wondering if that was her car, I realize I can no more tell you what that car was, or even what it looked like, than I can tell you who’s gonna win the next Superbowl.

Which is a shame, because it now occurs to me that I could have told just by looking whether it was a Tanisha-worthy set of wheels or not.

Which makes me think it must belong to some other Tanisha or else I surely could not have missed it.

On the other hand, maybe just seeing “Tanisha” on the plate made everything else around it fade out to white. She could do that.

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*Real name changed.

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The photo at the top of this story is a detail from Look book: Vlisco “DelicateShades of African Prints” downloaded from the website Elegancy.

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