Bus stop blues

On my way home from work today, I stopped at a downtown bus stop and waited in line for the bus to arrive. A drunk man approached us, his gait uncertain, his sense of direction clearly not the only thing that was impaired. He spotted a blond-haired young woman and stood close to her, informing her, no doubt, of her many admirable physical qualities. I couldn’t hear what he was saying until she had moved away and he raised his voice to the rest of us. To the drunk man with the grey moustache, this is for you:

 

Because the city grips my throat and squeezes

the life out of me. I am waiting at a bus stop

next to a woman with long curls like waves down her back. And

a drunk man staggers to where she stands and proclaims

that she is a sunflower seed. When he is met with silence he

raises his voice like only a drunk man can. He asks if we

would prefer he built an atom bomb instead. As if

those were his only options: harassing a young woman

and bombing the world to smithereens. I’d find it funny

if it weren’t for the ache I feel, like fingernails scratching

at the inside of my skin. The ugliness and desperation

in his voice, the plaintiff call of pain. Eventually the woman wanders away,

iPhone in hand. So does the man with the dirty moustache

and baggy jeans. We’re all relieved to see him go.

The No. 16 bus to 29th Station pulls up, and I amble on board,

flash my monthly bus pass to the surly driver,

and weave a path to the back of the bus, eager to pull out

the book I’m reading called why be happy when you can be normal?

by Jeanette Winterson. And I don’t have an answer.

But I can contemplate: this is why the middle class will never

ride public transit. It’s why I wrap myself in a plastic

blue raincoat before I climb on board. An indestructible

layer to keep the grime of reality at bay.

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