Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The trouble with public transportation... that it leads to really bad writing.


The man was heading to the library because he'd heard Thompson might be there. In his hand, he carried a small book. He boarded the bus at Franklin and Nye, three blocks from the parking garage where he'd spent the night in the bed of a pickup truck with Wisconsin plates. He'd known the owner of the truck would be gone until Sunday because of the stub on the dashboard.

The man always stood holding the over head rails. He thought sitting was for pussies. Today he was in Chicago, however, and Chicago city buses do not endorse standing passengers, so the man was forced to sit by the window with his long legs tucked up and bundled in the space provided. They did not fit at a forty-five degree angle and he had to dip his knees low and turn to the side. He fumed and swore under his breath, and he clenched and unclenched his fists as the felt each leg become first tingly, then numb.

At the library bus stop, the man pulled the cord and advanced down the aisle to the exit. Still weak, his legs betrayed him, causing him to stumble from the last step of the bus down onto the pavement below. He looked around sheepishly and saw a woman smiling at him.

She was holding an infant up in the air and producing an assortment of obnoxiously-endearing babble for his benefit. She lowered the child then quickly raised him into the air again, which elicited giggles from the suspended boy and chuckles from the small crowd gathered around them. The woman's eyes remained on the fallen man.

The man was frozen, staring up at the woman and the baby boy, wondering why he hadn't chosen to walk the twenty-seven blocks and avoid this whole mess. He was distracted enough that he didn't immediately hear the voice that spoke to him.

"You gonna move out of the way or what, buddy?"


The man stiffened, stood tall and puffed up his chest. Then he turned his face in my direction and locked eyes with me and just...stared. I stared back. He seemed dazed. Then he turned purposefully and stalked away.

Saturdays are when I take Levi down to the corner with a pack of Parliaments and sit on the bench on the east side of Boulder Park. I sit and smoke and make faces at my son from the time the dew is just shaking itself off the grass until the time it begins to trickle back with the return of evening.

On Saturdays, I watch people.

Sometimes I get lucky and witness one of those events that make life worth living: a skirt caught in the breeze; a child grabbed tightly around the arm and yanked; and old man rear-ending a station wagon full of kids and driven by an angry man.

Today, the event was the man who fell when getting off the buss. He noticed me watching. He dropped his book and left it there.

And if he thinks I was smiling because I enjoyed his pain and humiliation?

He was right.