I went to the back of the bus.
I always do. It drives me crazy when people don’t move back. Being at the back of the bus is a tad more confining, causing a little more claustrophobia, whereas a spot in the middle makes people feel like they have more control. Access to the door. Access to escape. I understand the motive, but it isn’t practical. I would rather move back and not have my nose in someones armpit.
Just a personal preference.
I once decided to move to the back of the bus and ended up sitting right across from my ex boyfriends new girlfriend. Everything was pretty fresh, and it was the first time we’d seen each other since things had started to shift. Fairly awkward. She tried to avoid eye contact, but it just became foolish. I said “Hi” and we had a nice little chat. It was actually a good situation. I felt graceful and at ease. And I felt like she was, too. Because I like her, and it was silly to pretend that I didn’t.
Best case scenario.
But it doesn’t always work out like that. I’ve been sitting in the back of the bus with a crazy man across from me, staring me down and calling me a “Whore” and “Reject”. He wasn’t specifically verbally abusing me, everyone was a target. Children. Old Ladies. Inanimate objects such as Tim Hortons cups and crumpled up Metro papers. And every time someone would avert eye contact with him, he would bark like a dog.
Worst case scenario.
Except for the time I was travelling on the Dufferin bus and we needed to evacuate because a man was huffing paint thinner. On the bus. I had to help the bus driver open the windows.
Correction: That’s the worst case scenario.
Today, I was waiting for the bus. I had just finished an early shift that morning which was preceded by a late shift last night, and I was so tired that my eyes hurt. Throbbing. I could feel the weight of my eyelashes as I stood on the cold, damp platform and waited for the saviour bus that would get me to hot coffee and my warm bed. As I waited, back tense and eyes glazed, I noticed an older gentleman come out onto the platform and grunt at the realization that the bus was late. Back into the station he went. I turned back to my view. The empty space where my bus should be. I reached into my pocket and grabbed my phone. I took a picture. I don’t really know why. I just wanted to remember that vision, that moment, and I guess, in some ways, that man.
We waited. And waited. And the crowd grew. And grew. Eventually, the gentleman came out of the station to the platform and headed straight to me. We stood, arm to arm.
“It’s like a painting from 500 years ago,” Said he, gesturing at the elaborate painting on the left.
“I know,” said I, with a small smile to denote pleasantry but a punctuated tone to denote finality.
I really didn’t want to talk. To anyone. I don’t feel like that too often, but when I do, it’s strong. An almost unbearable desire to lock the door to my mind and close my eyes and watch what I dream up in silence. And I was feeling it. My throbbing eyes were starting to tear in the wet cold, and impatience was building.
“I am 80 years old.” Said he.
“You’d never say.” Said I, with the same smile and tone.
“When I worked and was young like you, I would hear the older people talking about how they couldn’t wait to get old and retire.” He coughed slighly, and completed his thought.” I always wondered why anyone would ever want to be old.”
“I think it had less to do with wanting to age and more to do with not wanting to work.” Said I, as I craned my neck in search of the bus.
“I only take the bus a couple of times a year. Is it always this crowded?”
“I have to take my driver’s test and until then, I will have to take the bus. They say my eyes may be too bad.” Said he. “I almost hurt myself shovelling. And when I did, I thought how nice it would be to live in a place without winter. And I’d never really thought about that. Have you?”
“Of course,” Said I.
There was a very long pause. The bus rounds the corner.
I had to ask.
“Where would you go?”
“I would go to Peru. It’s so flat here. Imagine how beautiful the mountains would be.”
We got on the bus. I instinctively went right to the back. And when I turned to see him beside me, he was not. He sat right in the front. Right by the driver. I tried to catch his eye to give him a smile before my stop, but he just stared straight ahead. He was having his own time, he had done talking. I wonder if he was thinking about mountain tops in Peru.
Thats what I’ve been thinking about all day. I am usually cured by a good chat.