Saturday, January 30, 2010

Bus Stop

Written some time in mid-December 2009.

New York City can be a tragic place to be when it is cold and raining. Today, it is dark and cold and wet, and I had to wait for the bus. First, I thought I was having good luck, as the bus came right when I got to the stop. But when I swiped my MetroCard, the little screen said INSUFFICIENT FARE, and the same thing happened with the other three MetroCards I scrounged out of the bottom of my bag, so I had to get off at the next stop two blocks down and walk back home to get quarters out of the washcloth drawer in the kitchen bureau. The quarters heavy in my pocket, I set out for the bus stop again, but my luck had run out. The bus did not come. It did not come, and did not come, and did not come, and the blonde in lace-up wellies gave up and hailed a cab, and then the round-faced African man in a brown jacket gave up and hailed a cab, and I stayed, reading 2666, and the bus did not come. My cell phone had told me that it would be 52 degrees, so I had not dressed warmly, and the wind stung my body. I wished I had gloves, a hat, a heavier sweater, a longer scarf, legwarmers, or at least a pack of tissues, but I did not dare run back across the street and upstairs to my apartment to get any of these things, for fear that the bus would come, sneakily, behind my back.

About halfway through my wait, a mother and toddler joined me at the bus stop. The mother collapsed the stroller in preparation for getting on the bus, and I wanted to warn her that the prospects for that were not so good, but I also did not want to open a conversation, so I didn't say anything. The cold was biting, and the bus still did not come, and I clutched 2666 desperately in my frozen hands, trying to pretend that it was occupying my attention. I had begun to want to cry, and the mother and toddler made me feel even worse. I watched her pull a hat down over his head, and it made me wish: 1) that I had a hat for my own head; 2) that I had my toddler with me so that I, too, could make those comforting and normalizing gestures that would keep my from feeling as though I was about to fall into a cold, gray, lonely abyss; and 3) that my toddler would submit to being hatted as peacefully as this one. The toddler whimpered and raised his arms, and his mother lifted him to her hip, and I wished even more that my toddler were with me, warm and reassuring and heavy on my hip, making me feel like a reasonable adult, rather than a weak, damp, sniveling creature curled against the wind.

And then, finally, the bus came, and I folded 2666 under my arm and climbed aboard and carefully tipped my quarters into the sinkhole, suddenly worried that I may have miscounted. But the little screen said I had the correct fare, and I walked to the middle of the bus and bumped myself into a forward-facing seat. The mother, toddler and stroller climbed on after me and settled into the side-facing handicapped seats right behind the driver.

I opened 2666 again, but found that I could not focus on the wandering sentences, and instead I took out my notebook to write this lament. When I looked up from my writing, the mother and child were no longer on the bus and we were just turning left on Central Park North and wet rocks glared at me blackly through the almost-bare trees.

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