Sunday, February 22, 2015

BUS STORY # 433 (Broken Bad)

Wendy, played by Julia Minesci in "Breaking Bad." Downloaded from wikja.

I’ve just taken the middle seat on the side bench in the back of the bus. There are four of us: a woman to my left, a woman sitting across from me -- Whoa. She’s nodding off, and she leans her forehead into one of the poles supporting the overhead rails, then jerks back and grimaces.

She is a frightful vision. Shoulder-length, unkempt hair that starts out gray and turns reddish-blonde halfway down. Eyeliner, lipsticked red lips. She’s wearing two coats, or rather, half-wearing the outer one, a long, Army-green coat. She’s gotten the left sleeve off, but the right one is still collapsed between her elbow and wrist. The rest of the coat is crumpled up behind her right arm.

The inner jacket is a quilted black number, open to reveal a red card hanging from a lanyard around her neck that reads “Visitor” on top and “Presbyterian” below. Her shirt, a multicolored, horizontally striped number, is either cropped or not pulled down, revealing a distended belly that makes me think “Visitor” ought to read “Patient.” Her jeans are worn, and she has a pair of high-topped men’s shoes, the left without laces.

There’s a stubbed-out cigarette clamped between two fingers of her right hand. On the seat beside her is a plastic bag of groceries. I can see a bottle of something neon blue and a pack of Marlboros.

I look away quickly when her eyes catch mine.

I’m thinking she must know she looks a sight, and I feel bad that I might have made her feel worse than she already does. I will later realize I was, if she even noticed me, the least of what was making her feel bad.

She goes back to closing her eyes and grimacing, then yawning, then leaning so far forward that her face is on her thighs. When she jerks back upright and opens her eyes wide, I feel a shock of recognition: Wendy, the hooker in “Breaking Bad!”

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a rider on the bus I suspected might be on heroin. Of course, thinking of her as Wendy makes me shift from heroin to methamphetamine, and the next time she yawns, I check out her teeth. I get a good view of exactly two teeth standing side by side, left of center and all by themselves in that curving lower gum.

She looks miserable. I remember times I got sick with some kind of fast-moving bug while I was at work or out somewhere, and how terrible I felt trying to get home so I could just lie down, and if dying was part of the equation, well, it would at least bring relief. That is what she looks like she feels like.

There is a fourth person back on the platform, a black guy sitting in the middle seat of the back row. He’s an older guy, grizzled, with a dark baseball cap with no letters or insignia, dark jacket, dark blue jeans. He’s looking straight ahead, expression in stone, not looking at her, not looking at me looking at her. I imagine him taking one look at her early on and harrumphing to himself, “white folks.” Or maybe he’s just seen too much of this already wherever he grew up.

Someone pulls the cord, and the old guy says, “This is the stop.” I wonder for a minute who he’s talking to, then see a guy half-sitting, half-standing in front of the bench seat by the back door. I’m trying to figure out how he knew this was the kid’s stop when he gets up and starts for the back door. The kid sits back down, and as the old man passes the woman, he says, “C’mon, now.”

Another shock of recognition: they are together!

He’s already off the bus when she starts to get up, too. I see him on the sidewalk outside. He’s walking down the sidewalk, but then he stops, turns, and looks for her. When she’s off the bus, he turns back around and continues walking. She follows after him.

As the bus pulls away, I see her throw her head back and stagger. The side of her face is wracked with misery. It’s really overwhelming, for the both of us.


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10:45 AM  

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