100 words exercise: public bus

*Sorry this is a little late, I was at a water polo tournament all weekend.

We were alone on the bus so late it was early. There were other people who got on and then off again a few stops later, the crackhead with the ripped garbage bag wrapped around his head in a turban, the fat black woman with her ankles pinched into practical shoes and her apron still on, and a couple gay men wandering home from the Castro; but we were alone. He held my hand and when we stepped off into the night the driver winked at me. My laughter echoed down the empty boulevard. We were the only people in the city.

15 Responses

  1. I am not a bus girl. Small town means “front seat, passenger-side; no walking allowed”; I’m always offered a ride before I can make it ten steps down the sidewalk. Contrastingly, city buses jostle me into strange positions so close to strangers I feel improper yet distanced enough to remember my germaphobic tendencies, to draw my bags into a nervous puddle on my lap.

    I once watched a foreign woman drunk on alcohol swing on a bus pole in a foreign city drunk on twilight. Had this fully-clothed stripper been spotted on a corner in my town, someone – unaware – would have pulled over. “Need a ride?”

  2. She was the cover girl for the Lawrence Transit, aka the “T.” Kendra was her name. Kendra Craig. She was on the Pom Squad and she was, well, rather a slut. At least, that’s what the other girls used to say about her when they saw her face on the ad in the centerfold of the school’s newspaper. Every two weeks, there was Kendra, with her bright-red hair and smile that was posted on the wall of my orthodontist’s office, standing in a perfect contraposto pose with a beach bag slung over her shoulder saying “Follow me! Ride the ‘T’!”

  3. There’s the couple that seems on the brink of homelessness who we see when we’re thirteen on our way to the mall. They engage us in conversation, because they see us making jokes at people outside the bus and they have a statement–“Chill out, guys…Not everyone is as well off as yourselves.” And I’m saying to him “Buddy, we’re not that well off. It’s just that our parents spend it on us.” I don’t know–maybe I’m saying it too late. Because what we actually said was nothing–just looked appropriately cowed and went on making fun of the couple with the rings all over their faces and the exotic scent that we couldn’t quite place.

  4. Growing up, I envied country kids, faces to the window, exploring the mysteries of school-bus culture. The year we lived in England, my brother and I took the bus to the city center; from there I walked through Cambridge’s ancient streets to my girls’ school. Claiming the front seat atop the double-decker, my brother banned me from the action. Or so he thought, for before me unfolded the real show starring conductors playing marvelous ticket machines strapped to their uniformed chests, spewing the language in hard-edged accents, hopping off and back onto the open landing as nimble as circus acrobats.

  5. I never used to ride the public bus until I went to high school in the city. After school on our way to Hang Out, my friends would let me pull the string telling the driver to stop (like a toddler, continually fascinated). We would sit in the back seats, gossiping and singing pop songs, reveling in being young and beautiful and carefree. In my ignorance of the bus system, if I had been alone I would’ve ridden that bus til the end of the line, never knowing where we were going or when I should call it all off. Looking back, I wish I never had.

  6. We always griped about the buses. It was what you did at the bus stop at 6:50 in the frost-tongued morning, balancing your peanut butter on toast in one mittened hand while supporting biology and algebra with the other. It’s always late, maybe it broke down, that WOULD happen to us. Getting a ride to school was a treat; getting a ride all the time, though, just became normal and inevitably there was always something to complain about.

  7. I always want to go to the Castro, but never quite make it. Even if I’m showing people the city, it is on our list but we take to much time on other things. It is the hard won gritty glitz and power I want to view, usurp for myself. I passed by when they had a parade, though it was no longer before me, and the police were still guarding the area, and they kindly and thankfully mentioned that there was much less reaction this year. I love the stories our young married couple told us of living straight in the Castro. The reversal one could finally experience, when they sat in a restaurant holding hands, the unremarkable being asked “do your parents know?”

  8. I’ve never trusted public transportation. Vermont has not helped this. Going from a state without public transport to a state where buses come and go at their own leisure, regardless of the penetrating cold and fast-approaching darkness. I like to think that the board of transportation consists of several people trying to decide on the most inconvenient times possible for a bus route. When they have finished drawing up the bus schedule, they slap each other on the back and go for coffee while I wait frigid on a bench in the nebulous time between late night and early morning.

  9. When we lived in Mainz, he rode the 57; I took the 56 from Hegelstraße. Our buses converged from opposite directions at the cathedral, and we’d search out one another from across the avenue where the buses stopped and pressed forward again. On the climb home, however, 56 and 57 followed each other until they paused at the Hauptbahnhof. Here, and on the last of our days, I considered hurrying onto the bus with one number and one person more than my own. As if proximity would solve the question of separation. As if numbers could be so easily resolved.

  10. I never imagined that I would take a public bus for the first time in a foreign country. At home, the public bus is something you do not take. Only people commuting from the neighboring “cities” take them to work in my town. But there I was, forced to get on a bus that I had always viewed with skepticism. To make matters worse, I had to read the bus maps in French and figure out which stop I was really supposed to get off at. I was obviously nervous and a kind French woman picked me out for a foreigner right away (something I had been working hard to avoid). In her beautiful voice she reminded me to push the button just before the stop I wanted so that the driver would know to let me off. I wish I could find her now and thank her profusely for that bit a wisdom. If it hadn’t been for her, I would probably still be riding around la banlieue of Grenoble, wondering where and how I was supposed to get off that bus.

  11. Looking out I saw green and bits of brown where green got tired. The road ran straight for awhile and my eyes were bored of chasing it, so I turned my head inward. The wood slats of the floor led directly to her shoe. Its toe was flapping open and her sock poked out like a tongue. I traced up her skinny body to look her in the eye and she was smiling and she pulled out a notebook. It had a pocket with some folded notes and she took out a greying piece of lined paper, a crude letter.

  12. I was three quarters short, and everyone averted his eyes. I stood at the head of the bus, prodding, shaking my coin purse as if I’d missed something, fully aware I hadn’t, fully aware I was holding everyone up just by standing there, prodding, shaking my coin purse. People have meetings to get to, I told myself. I flipped over a nickel. Work, jobs, obligations. I turned a dime and shook my head. We are on a schedule here.

    One quarter would be different. One quarter and someone would get up, say “Here, miss,” sit down. I snapped the clasp of my coin purse shut – smiled politely. “I think I need to make a trip to the bank”– looked around at the people looking out of windows, checking watches, feigning sleep. I smiled at them, politely, and stepped off the bus.

  13. My first time outside the monastery and the city is vacant! There was no more thrill to isolation, and yet what could be more isolating than pedestrian life? We progressed towards a park where I whispered, “Lover, the morning arrives.” We caught a glimpse of leaves and nestled ourselves on a trunk. We awoke a family of anxious squirrels. they scrambled away and we laughed at those ludicrous creatures, with their useless tails. God I hate squirrels. If I could redo my blasphemy it would be to vanquish all optimistic rodents. You threw a rock at one and it squeaked.

  14. The public bus never appealed to me. I grew up in the suburbs. To take a bus in the suburbs meant to go somewhere you never go. The bus doesn’t take you to your friend’s house on Elm Street to play video games or down to Kinnean Field to play pick-up football. The bus takes you serious places where people work long hours and come home looking out the window with a fatigue so strong that it wipes out traces of anything and everything, even itself. The public bus takes you to adult places, to places you don’t want to go. You just want to get to David’s house and your mom won’t give you a ride.

  15. The bus travels a long trail, people get off and people get on, but no one is really ever going along for the ride. A bus unlike the car travels at a pace that makes my mind loss a lace and thinking about my places, after all, never want to fall. We turn around a corner and I see what seems to be my little space, slipping out the door I feel a sense of disgrace, one day ill get over this place.

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