I recently I took a bus to a part of Massachusetts where spring comes early, as I knew well, having lived there in my college years. By late March, lunchtimes would often find me heading to a quiet campus spot by the pond, where I would stretch out on the flat belly of river-plain and let the sun’s warmth seep into my bones.
The day the following events took place however, the temperature in that valley stood at 42 degrees six weeks into spring or not, and a steady rain flung itself like handfuls of cold pennies at all our faces.
I say “our.” I was in a bus station that late afternoon along with what seemed to me like an usually large number of people, perhaps because of this gruesome twinning of the cold and the wet. I thought maybe they had come to get in out of the weather.
In the Ladies Room, an elderly lady with a cane waited outside the occupied wheelchair-accessible stall.
“Are you coming out soon?” she asked after a while, rapping on the door. Then “You’re not handicapped!” she snapped at the far younger woman who emerged at last.
“I certainly am!” the woman shot back. “Want to see my license?”
“No THANK you!” the older lady pronounced, hobbling past to enter the stall in question.
Now at one of the sinks, a young blonde was telling all present about a man she had just encountered who couldn’t stop remarking on how beautiful she was
and how many boyfriends she must have – “right up until he started calling me a loser and saying I’d never amount to anything.”
“Goodness!” said one of her listeners. “How did you react to that?”
“I slapped him and said ‘Go back on your meds, fool’
In the large waiting area, meanwhile, things felt much more placid.
A thin man came in out of the rain wearing a huge heavy-duty trash bag, one corner of which made a whimsical peaked cap atop his head,with a hole cut out for his face. Because the bag stretched clear down to the floor, he had to ask several people for help in taking it off.
The security guard came through then and demanded to see people’s bus tickets.
Everyone lacking such a document was ordered to leave.
Some drifted out. Others seemed to just lift and resettle, like birds on a wire after the quieting down of a mild disturbance below.
Two men stood watching an update on the Don Sterling affair on the TV screen that hung from the celling.
“It’s rare when a white man gets called out for racism” said one.
“Ah, the guy was just jealous, his girlfriend with a bunch of young guys” said the other. Both were African American.
The clock on the wall marked the slow-passing time.
A middle-aged woman punched her phone awake and got to work excoriating the person who answered it, while over by the windows, a bus driver and two lounging civilians debated the merits of cremation vs. burial.
”Cremation’s way cheaper too!” said one.
“Hey dust to dust either way,” said another, by way of finishing on an amiable note.
The clock-hands kept inching onward. More of the ticketless drifted in.
And thus by degrees id the afternoon drained away.
Then, a fresh wind, as nimble as like a set of salad tongs in the hands of a professional chef, began tossing swirls of litter outside by the buses, just as, in the sky, a slice of clear blue opened up right at horizon’s edge.