Sunday, May 01, 2016

BUS STORY # 495 (Jeffrey, Part One)

Downloaded from Dick's Sporting Goods.

It was early on, when all we were doing was acknowledging one another with a grin when we passed each other crossing the UNM campus, that I got the sense there would be a story here.

I wasn’t sure it could be called a bus story. For one thing, he is not (to the best of my knowledge) a rider. For another, the encounters were not on the bus or at a bus stop. Whenever I opted to catch the 11 by walking across campus to Lomas (as opposed to walking over to The Frontier to catch the Rapid), we would, more often than not, it seems, cross paths.

I decided it is a bus story. For one thing, I was still between buses and on my way home. For another, there would have been no encounters if I hadn’t been taking the bus. But mostly, it’s a story I’d like to tell.

The first time we crossed paths was probably in late spring or early summer. I remember he was wearing white pants and a white shirt – or rather, off-white, and in a style that registered as “equatorial colonial.” I’d like to tell you he was wearing sandals or some kind of woven shoe, and he may well have been, but I don’t recall.

Brown-skinned, with a close-cropped, curly, black and gray beard. Rimless eyeglasses. Later, I would note the brown leather courier bag which made me think he might be a graduate student or a professor, and the silver cuff bracelet he wore on his right wrist.

But what made the first encounter memorable was this: We were both wearing the same make and style and color hat, and we both recognized our hat on the head of the other.

We grinned at each other as we passed by.

I remember this happening somewhere between the fountain and the Duck Pond. In any case, I took it for one of those random, one-time, what-are-the-odds encounters in which we momentarily shared in the fellowship of the hat.

When I saw him a few days later, in almost the same place, we were already grinning at each other from afar. I began to look for him from that point on whenever I walked across the campus.

Over time, our encounters ranged across the campus so that it was obvious we were walking the same exact path through the campus, in opposite directions. This route is neither a straight line nor a line without a number of options that would still get each of us to where we were going. Like the hat, it was yet another what-are-the-odds coincidence. Then one afternoon, I was early enough to catch him crossing Lomas from University Hospital. Possibilities other than UNM professor or graduate student now loomed.

I was the first to speak.

It was during monsoon season. The sky had darkened, the wind was up, and rain had begun to spatter the walkway. The hat, meant to protect me from the sun, now kept the rain off my glasses.

When I saw him coming my way, I saw he was bare-headed.

“Where’s your hat?” I asked.

“Oh, it’s right here,” he said, smiling and patting his bag.

Sometime after that, as we were approaching and had already started smiling, he brought his hands up to his chest, placed the palms together with the fingers straight up, and gave me a little bow.

That was when I knew it was just a matter of waiting for the story to unfold.


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