©ON THE BUS
Mimi Wolske - Mona Arizona™
July 2014 — All Rights Reserved
I was twenty and catching a city bus
for the first time in my life.
My father drove me to the mall.
Playing his part, he waited —
to make himself feel better
about leaving me to my own devices
as if I were a child
in an unfamiliar land who might
be afraid...or get into trouble —
until it pulled up and I stepped
into that unfamiliar world.
Six people got on at this stop —
A housewife and mother... or
was she the maid-slash-governess?...
with a barefoot babe nursing a bottle
took the first two seats facing forward,
a pubescent boy who shoved by
everyone and grabbed a seat by a
smeared window pane near the back,
three men in suits who must be on
their way to their little desks all in a row
took seats separating them from each other,
and me, nervous and continuously
checking the change in my fisted hand
before taking one of the seats with
my back to the windows.
There's beauty in the imperfections
of life's players on this stage —I
see that when our bus is stopped
for a riot of some sort ahead of us
and, as I look closely, I realize
I know that old woman...
I open my window against
all rules of bus riding...
Professor Lund, the grey
eminence of the university,
stands, dazed and trembling,
before a crowd of young
angry protestors and I hear her —
"Ladies, gentlemen!" she begins —
she falters —she screams
trying hard to outshout those with
their backs to the front of our bus.
A tomato flies past her head —
another splatters red on her cheek
and her hair flies out of place
as her head jerks and
her arms raise for self-protection
as more objects jettison
toward the woman I had
encouraged to speak out.
My god, what had I done?
Professor Lund —a friend
of my grandparents on my
father's side...I'd heard stories
about her when I was young —
stories that frightened me —
but I came to know her and
admire her for her
stubbornness and her
individuality and her
original and intelligent thoughts.
She said to me once, "You
don't listen, you don't learn.
I know they call me
Crazy Old Bitch." She chuckled.
She bleached her hair when
she was younger...Grandmother
said, "I declare, Lois, you
sure look fine. I almost
didn't recognize you." The
professor laughed and said,
"Well, maybe the devil won't either!"
I asked the prof about the photo
on her piano —it was of the most
handsome man I could
remember seeing for people
in their generation. She stared
out the window —I'm unsure
she was looking at anything —
then she got this tiny grin...as if
she had a personal secret. She
murmured, "My mamma dragged me,
kicking and screaming, to
their house when they moved
to town...he answered the door...
I swear I never knew
I had a heart until then."
"Look at that crazy ol' bitch!" one
of the business man on the bus said.
It's funny what happens when
things go wrong...
the clock stops —
in slow motion —
you can see everything
yet miss every detail.
I was going to be more
than a little late for my
wedding dress fitting.
I leaped from my seat
and was moving to the
door when the driver said,
"Stay behind the yellow line!"
"That woman always frightened
me when I was a child," said
the woman with the bare-foot babe.
"Did you see that?" yelled the
boy in the back. "Smack! Splat!
Right in her face!" He laughed.
They all laughed...except me.
I went to my seat, closed
the window, and slumped
against the back —closed my eyes.
The fat tabby that slept on her couch
was probably watching out the window,
waiting for her to come home...
it would be time for lunch soon.
I didn't have to see to know
she lost the battle —
to know she had fallen
like all the soldiers before her;
I heard the cheers outside and
inside. I was twenty and
I was one hundred twenty
as I sat numb on the bus.