Kiss Me on the Bus
Last week I was running late so I decided to catch the bus rather than walk. (I had elected not to bike because it was supposed to rain later in the day, which it did. With the help of weather.com, I win yet again.) As I rounded the corner, I saw the bus was already headed for the next stop, about a block and a half up. I decided to go for it, and took off running. I made it to the bus and the driver was already laughing when I got there.
"You training for the marathon?" he said.
It made me laugh too, even though I wanted to punch him a little bit, maybe just in the shoulder, but still. Just a little nip would have been nice.
After about six or seven blocks, I settled in and my heart calmed down, though now I was incredibly awake. I studied the back of the Hassid man ahead of me, the Yankee Doodle Dandy meets Hamentashen quality of his hat, the bulging skin of his neck and lower head folding gently over the back of his collar. Why do they always have a big blemish right on the back of their neck?
I always want to give all the Hassidic men in my neighbor a makeover. Or at least send them to a nutritionist.
Around Bedford and S.4th, a young couple stood and waited for the bus. He was tall and lanky and wearing a hooded sweatshirt that was too short on the sleeves for him; it was clearly his favorite sweatshirt, that he'd had since high school, perhaps pre-growth spurt, and he refused to give it up. She was half a foot shorter than him, with a pretty, sharp face, and her hair pulled back into a bun. The air was humid that morning so a circle of tendrils framed her face. She was wearing a dark, red velvet jacket and I envied it. On her shoulder was a brown leather bag with a large travel tag hanging from the strap.
When the bus stopped, the man awkwardly kissed her on the forehead, she readjusted the bag, and she hopped on the bus. After she ran her Metro card through the counter, she turned and waved goodbye to him. Then she walked to the seat in front of me, settled in, and stared off into space, which is what you're supposed to do on the bus if you don't end up running to it first thing in the morning.
Now the B-61 bus on Bedford is incredibly slow. There's a stop sign or light at practically every block, and there are bus stops at every other block, so the bus can never really pick up any speed. As we drove up the street, the woman's boyfriend, with his long legs, ended up walking practically at pace with the bus. So when we hit the next corner, there he was, staring at her through the window, jumping and waving. She didn't see him, and I almost tapped her and asked her to wave, so desperately was he craving her attention, but then I thought: I am not supposed to be watching them. And that would be weird if I did that. Stop being weird now.
The bus lurched on without her seeing him until we hit the next block, and there he was again, determined to have his romantic moment of eye contact through the windows of a bus. He waved both hands this time, and she finally saw him. And then he made this incredibly sad face, and she made one back, and it was heartbreaking. Relatively.
I mean, what, she's going back to college upstate? She's flying to San Francisco for the week? She lives in the Bronx? It's not like she's going to prison for the next 3-5 years. It's not like she's going to the frontlines in Iraq. She's just taking the bus somewhere.
The bus jolted one more block. I rubbed my thumbnail against the nubby blue wallcovering. It was brighter than the old nubby blue wallcovering you see on the old buses. This was a deluxe ride all the way.
And then there he was again! Waving, smiling, seeking love and affirmation. The woman was now alert to his ongoing presence, so she saw him right away. He made a goofy face, and she laughed out loud. This man has a neverending supply of faces, I thought. This could go on for a while. And: Maybe he should just get on the bus with us already.
Now we were at Bedford and Grand Ave, and I thought, there's just no way he could possibly come back for another helping of emasculation. And yet, here was my boy, sleeves too short, hair too long, moon-shaped face crying out for attention. She turned and looked at him again as the bus stopped, and he started to make another face, this one halfway between sad and weird, or maybe it was to be something else, and it never had the chance to fully form, because then another look came over him, it was the face of revelation, as he realized: Oh my god, I am being a huge fucking dork right now. He promptly crossed in front of the bus, and headed to the other side of the street, away from any face-making temptation.
I pictured him going home and standing in front of the bathroom mirror, spotted with dirty sink water, and staring at himself for a good long while.
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