The Bus Stop

March 18, 2013
The rain fell that Sunday, a cold, black November night when raindrops turned to molten onyx on asphalt, on windows, on piles of raked leaves. It fell like teardrops- no, not teardrops, per say, more like tiny, black stars.

The raindrops turned to fog on the glass panels of the bus stop booth, creating a drawing palette for the little girl who sat with her mother under the harsh fluorescent lights. She curved a finger across the condensation, making faces and hearts, writing her name over and over again in crooked, capital letters. Her mother sat beside her on the bench, oblivious to the artistic triumphs occurring beside her= her head was tilted back, her eyes closed. If someone looked closely at the young woman’s face, they could see how papery-white her skin was, how a spider web of blue veins gleamed from underneath; how dark the circles under her eyes were. The little girl was pale, too; far too much so for someone so young. Her coat was too small; her face was dirty.

An old man sat beside the mother and daughter, staring vacantly into the black space of the night before him. He twisted a wooden cane in his hands, occasionally tapping it on the ground as if sending out a coded message. He smiled at the little girl, who waved back at him with one tiny hand.

Drip. Drip. Drip. The rain continued to fall, pouring from the clouds to drum on the roof, dripping of the roof and onto the sidewalk. In the darkness, a man strolled by; umbrella guarding his face, coat pulled up against the cold. The stranger paused for a moment by the bus stop, as though he, too, were waiting for a ride that would transport him to new, far-off places. He stood with his back to the people inside, black coat, umbrella and briefcase making him seem to blend into the night.

He eyed he bus schedule printed on the glass wall- 10:17 to Boston, 10:33 to Worchester, 10:51 to Springfield. Maybe he was a stranger, a bus-rider, a man with no secrets- only a destination.

A rumbling noise resounded down the street, and a hulking metal bus belching smoke and smog pulled up to the station, yellow lights flashing Boston, 10:17. Shuffling to his feet, the old man hobbled forward and, gripping his cane, stepped onto the bus. Heavy metal doors slammed shut behind him, and the bus pulled off into the night.

The little girl resumed drawing on the frosted glass, her mother still asleep beside her. The windows of the bus stop had become an icy canvas, streaked with lines of doodles. Without thinking, the strange man closed his umbrella, leaned inside, and traced his own smiley face on the wall beside hers.

Perhaps it was a trick of the light, but in that moment it could be said that the eyes of the little girl and the strange man were the same shade of blue, that the planes of their faces matched in structure. Or perhaps it was not a trick of the light, at all.

He smiled at her, opened his umbrella, and stepped back out into the rain. The little girl curled up next to her mother, staring at the twin faces on the bus stop wall.

The rain continued to fall, fogging the glass over again and wiping away all traces of the pictures. Eventually, a bus would come and whisk away the mother and daughter, would deposit other passengers and pull away still others. And the bus stop would be a coexisting object- something that was at once mundane and ordinary- as well as something that was sacrosanct and precious.

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