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Bus Stop

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 It was snowing that day. Not pretty perfect snow that settles in fluffy mounds on the sidewalk. No, this was wet snow that made the streets slippery and the ground mushy. People stayed inside on days like this, they bundled into their cozy pijs and locked the doors. This was evident at the empty bus stop. The normally packed station was bare except for one lone older woman. She wore a large purple coat that swallowed her tiny frame and sat perfectly still, her purse sitting on her lap. The bus cover protected her from the snow, but not the cold, as she sat shivering. In the distance a businessman hurried toward the stop. He was a tall fellow adorned with a long black coat and plaid scarf. Carefully, he skipped around the sidewalk, dodging the snow to keep his dress shoes clean. Ducking into the shelter, he began brushing off snow before sitting next to the lady. The businessman’s leg jumped up and down with impatience and his eyes kept roaming to his shiny watch. The cold air was filled with that stranger silence, a silence of curiosity and awkwardness. The lady shifted around, clinging to her purse and avoiding the man’s gaze. When neither could nearly stand the silence any longer, the man’s phone began to ring.
“Hello honey.” The man spoke into the phone, nodding back in response to his wife. “I’ll be home on time, I promise.” More nodding. “Yes we can pick up the car from the shop when I get home.” Silence and less nodding. “Ok dear, I love you too. Goodbye.” He hung up, shoving the phone back into his coat pocket. Stranger silence began to creep back in, but the lady stopped it with a cough of her throat.
“Newlyweds?” She asked, still avoiding his gaze.
The man smiled, removing his glove to look at the gold on his ring finger. “How could you tell?”
“Husbands who have been married for many years tend to ignore their wife’s calls.” The lady responded.
Silence.
“You can laugh, it was funny.” The lady insisted, chuckling herself. The man nodded, letting a small laugh escape. “Are you married ma'am?” Asked he, trying to keep up the small talk.
The lady looked down at her own wrinkled hands, bare of any promises. “I was once.” She muttered.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to…”
“It’s fine, that was eons ago.” The lady interrupted with a wave of her hand, a small smile spreading on her falling face.
“Um…” The man tried to start, before giving up to the silence. The lady was not so inclined. 
“Yes? What were you about to say?”
The man shifted in his seat, adjusting his scarf with great care. “If you don’t mind my asking, what happened to your husband?”
And then she laughed. Not a dainty old woman laugh of cookies and hugs. No, this was a lumberjack laugh that started in the belly before bursting forth in loud bellows. The businessman was quite taken aback by the outburst, and confused at its meaning.
“Sorry, I never had one of those. Not really my type you see.” She continued, wiping away a tear from her cheek. She glanced at the man, whose face had turned a deep shade of scarlet.
“I’m sorry.” He muttered, a dog with its tail between its legs.
“No need to apologize,” the woman insisted, “I suppose lesbians are hard to recognize without flannels and a softball cap.” She looked out at the snow, it had slowed to a steady pace, floating down more gently. The temperatures had continued to drop, causing the fallen blanket to freeze into dangerous ice spots.
“You were married to a woman.” The businessman stated, finally catching up.
The lady laughed again, “Sure was, the second that law passed we hightailed it to the court for a marriage license. We were married the next day. I must apologize, you don’t want to listen to some old lady’s failed love life.”
“Well I have nothing better to do for the next five minutes.” The man responded, fiddling with his watch.
“Touché.” The lady laughed in return. She began to lean back, settling into the cold bench. “I suppose if you insist.” A pause as the words gathered in her mind. “We had been protesting for marriage equality for months, never thought the bastards would actually pass it. That was the best day of my life, the day my love was finally legal.” A small chuckle followed, “Well my actual wedding day was pretty fabulous too, I suppose. It was perfect in every way as they say. We didn’t have a single thing planned out, so that night we raced to a used prom dress shop. We picked out the ugliest dresses we could find. Acid green, with large ruffles of leopard print.” The chuckles increased, and even the businessman couldn’t help but smile. “My dog was the best man, and we invited every gay in the village. The party lasted all night.”
“That does sound pretty perfect.” The businessman nodded. Out of instinct, his gaze returned to the watch. The bus was going to be here soon.
“Bored?” The woman mocked.
“Sorry.” He replied, turning away to hide the blush.
The woman waved her hand, “I hope you cherish every moment with your wife, they aren’t kidding when they say those moments are fleeting. I wish I had held her closer every night, told her I loved her a million times. It sounds like the lame thing to say, but you never know when you could lose them.”
“I’m sorry.” The businessman said, for once truly meaning it. And then he couldn’t help himself, “What happened?”
The lady sighed, letting it all escape in a rapid flurry. “Murder. We were out dancing at a popular gay club. There was a loud crash, then the entire room was filled the screams. The shots came from the back, it sounded like there were so many. The mob forced me out, so I just assumed she had been swept out too. But she was inside, gunned down in cold blood.” Grey tears began to slide into the wrinkles that mapped the lady’s frail face. She pulled a tissue out of her purse, quickly wiping them away. A few more escaped, freezing in place. And when she looked back, the lady saw that the man was also crying. His eyes were red and full, and he was trying to catch the tears on his coat sleeve. The lady handed him a tissue, which he took and wrapped into a ball. The strangers smiled at each other, a subtle understanding passed through them. They were separated by years and beliefs, but they were still just people. Each nodded in acknowledgment, letting the moment sink slightly before also slipping away. And then the bus came. 






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