Public Transportation

March 7, 2011
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The relaxed feel of the evening comes to an end as I hurriedly run down three flights of stairs. As I push open the door and feel a rush of night air, someone honks and I spook a bit. They wave. They don’t know me. Idiots. I walk past them, looking for some landmark that tells me where I am exactly. But in the dark, all these brick buildings look the same. I turn one way, heading towards what looks like a major road. Something tells me it’s the wrong way. I casually cross the street and head back in the other direction, trying not to look like a lost kid. Vulnerable. I’m not scared of the dark, just what might be hiding in it. Finally. I see a street I know. I stand at the corner and wait to cross, but then I see the volleyball nets. I search my memory files, and I remember them from earlier this month. They happen to be on the corner of the street I need. Thank God. I pick up the pace a bit, walking quickly past strangers heading the other direction toward their warm beds. Finally I reach a bus stop with minutes to spare. Getting lost didn’t set me back any. I stand at the bus stop for those few minutes I had to wait. Exposed. I am constantly looking over my shoulder, checking left and right. I sigh with relief as I finally see my bus coming from the next stop.

I pick a seat near the front, hoping that people will see that I want to be left alone to my magazine. They don’t. Not long after I get on, a little old man gets on and sits in front of me.

“How you doin’?”
“I’m just fine; how are you?”
“Hangin’ on, always hangin’ on. What’s your name?”
I’m not sure how I feel about this. “Lindsey.”
A few more questions that I don’t feel comfortable answering.
“Cn I h’ve a dolla?”

He asks several times because I can’t understand him. And when I do, I tell him no. I don’t have a dollar that he can have. He tells me to have a good evening. His voice sounds a bit lost, and maybe, lonely, too.

A few stops later a young woman gets on the bus with her little kid and her sister. She sits in the seat that the little old man had abandoned. Her kid in the stroller makes a fuss, so she picks him up and lets him stand in her lap. He stands facing me, watching me and my horse magazine.

“He wants her book!” His momma laughs.

I just look up at them, but she’s already looking elsewhere. The kid, however, is still watching the magazine, and, maybe, me.

Hey, Kid. Look at this horse. I tell him in my head. He’s gorgeous. A horse like him could take you somewhere. I meet the kid’s eyes. They look like hope.

But every time the bus lurches to a stop, it washes the smell of his mom into my nostrils. It smells like pot; it smells like hopelessness. I try to hold my breath.

After they get off, a man gets on. His eyes light upon my magazine.

“Horses?” He asks me.

“Yeah,” I say back.

“My grandpa used to live in Kentucky, only about two hundred yards from Churchill Downs.”

“That’s really cool!” I say. And I mean it, as he goes on to tell me about Churchill Downs and his grandpa who worked as a trainer there.

“I’ll let you get back to your magazine. Just saw it and couldn’t help sharing my stories. I’ve got my book.” He starts reading, and I go back to my magazine. And his eyes, as he told me, looked like memories and nostalgia and wistfulness, too, maybe.

And I just want to get off this road that pretends to take you somewhere and anywhere and everywhere. It offers its charming hand and you want to accept, but if you pay attention you can see the piles of broken dreams piled behind it, under the seats, the silent despair etched in the lines on every face. Because it stole everything they had from them. God, please, don’t let that be me. And I know I sound like fear. But I’m not afraid of the dark. I’m afraid of who I might become in the dark.

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