Thursday, August 21, 2008


I walk out the back door at 7:44 a.m. and wind around the house, my bag swinging from my shoulder, heavy with the same items as yesterday: lunch, water bottle, cell phone, wallet. A weed that for some reason I’ve never bothered to pull or spray with Roundup hangs in an arc over the sidewalk next to the house, swaying slightly in the breeze but not in any danger of dying, despite its lack of soil. I step on it, like I do every day, hoping that this will cripple the plant and lead to its eventual decline. I should bend down and pull it up, but I don’t have the time I have to catch the 8:53 bus.

Down the steps, then, and up the street I go. A neighbor is bending over, fussing about her flower beds, like she was yesterday, with her butt in the air and no regard for what passersby might think. Another neighbor, dressed in blue scrubs and bearing a stainless steel coffee mug, heads for his car. Right on time.

I turn into the alley. Two blocks ahead, a 77F bus heads up Stanton Avenue.

Clunk. Someone drops trash in the dumpster from the third floor of some notoriously run-down apartments.

“71A Downtown” says the recorded message as a bus opens its doors on Negley Avenue one block over. The disembodied voice echoes through the alley just as it does every ten minutes.

I’ve reached Stanton Avenue. A man in a grey business suit and light pink shirt stands at the corner, pacing slowly in his whiter-than-white sneakers and dragging heavily on his cigarette as he waits for the bus. His square face reminds me of a pale, pissed off Lawrence Fishburne every morning.

The bus arrives. A woman with the most curiously sprayed and sculpted hairstyle gets off the bus, her pointed features sending the same message as always: leave me alone. I flash my blue bus pass and the driver, a cheery, middle-aged woman with a youthful haircut, smiles and pushes a fare button. In the first row, a man rises to give me the window seat next to him.

“Good morning!” he says. “And how are we doing today?”

“Pretty well. How about you?” I respond, settling my bag on my lap and pulling out my book.

“Nice weather we’re having,” he remarks.

“Yes, yes it is,” I reply, diving headfirst into my novel to avoid further conversation. I’ve already heard everything he has to say: Babyland is being renovated, the city should really do something about this or that building, that program on Randy Pausch last night was really “touching” and the Mayor is an imbecile. I wish it weren’t true, but there’s nothing new under his sun.

The regulars get on and off at their respective stops. A tall woman with foamy black hair boards in Friendship, wearing her button-front denim skirt, plastic-rimmed glasses from the 80s and toting a small workout bag. She sits down, her legs a little too far apart for other riders’ comfort (especially considering the short, button-front skirt) and takes out her Hebrew scriptures, a thick rubber-banded packet of tattered, unbound pages. She meditates on each page for several minutes as the bus draws nearer to our destination, flipping each sheet over and placing it at the back of the stack before continuing on.

“Liberty and 10th,” the disembodied voice of the bus calls out, announcing my stop. It’s 8:16.

I rise, thank the driver, and head out into the sea of familiar faces going the same directions with the same expressions as yesterday hoping that today will bring something fresh, something new their way.

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