Friday, June 19, 2009

The Ungainly Woman

There’s a woman who sometimes waits for the bus at my stop, going home from work. A while back, I watched her be humiliated by two other passengers: an older woman with white hair wearing a pale blue gingham dress, and a woman in her forties who got on a couple of stops after we did.

The bus was crowded and the second woman called out over the heads on the intervening passengers.

“Good afternoon to you grandmother! How are you getting on today,” said the younger woman. And yes, she spoke in this high falutin’ way, just like that, overly conscious of propriety.

“I’m doing fine except this fat ass sat down next to me without even saying excuse me,” said the older woman.

Then the younger one turned to the woman I wait with and scolded her in a loud voice. The woman she was sitting next to had been a nurse in a war, or a marine, or something. She deserved respect.

“Who do you think you are just sitting down next to her without saying excuse me. You tell her excuse me right now!”

And the older one is spewing out a string of “sat her fat ass right down” and “young people rude today”.

My bus-stop woman is quiet. She nods her head and tries to look invisible, but too late. They have put their gps on her and will now hound her for the sport of it. So pretty soon, before they have a chance to escalate this much further, she turns to the old lady muttering “fat ass,” and says, “excuse me” in a surprisingly sincere voice, like she really does believe them and thinks she should have been more polite, like she is already beginning to kick herself inside for not being more polite. She is remembering lectures in third grade about knocking other kids down on the playground and feels she should have known the passenger sitting next to her wouldn’t want her there. She should have said excuse me without being told and so she says it a second time just be sure.

And I fell in love with her then, just to watch her and understand her, with her ungainly ways, her lumbering walk, and the way her large, honey-colored eyes bulge out and make her look belligerent and about to say mother-fucker, the way her whole face has a slapped together look like it's made out of clay that is beginning to slide off, and how when anyone talks to her, she answers in a rough, low-pitched voice that apologizes and laughs at herself all at once.

So today, I left work and saw the bus already coming, and I ran, trying to be careful crossing the two streets at the intersection, all in my new shoes with the tiny heels. And when I got to the stop, there she is. I look back and see a second bus a block further and a distance I wouldn’t have had to run for.

I say, “Oh, I run for the bus and there’s two coming! But at least the first one is empty!” and turn to her smiling.

She laughs and barks out, “Oh yeah, I hate getting the full ones.”

We smile together and find our seats, on either side of the aisle, each with our own little row of space in the otherwise empty bus.


Magaly Guerrero said...

You know? I read a lot of blogs. I can say that I read most of the post of everybody who I follow and follows me and at least one post of people who stop by and comment on one of my posts. But I rarely see a "real life" cool--by-the-seat-of-your-pants post, so I welcome this one.

I love reading about real meaningful moments, so thanks so much for sharing this. I'll probable think about it every time I get on the bus.

Yvonne Rathbone said...

Well, I'm going to remember that compliment when I get on the bus! It really means a lot to get such great feedback. Thanks.