Friday May 13 — the bus ride home

Society’s Untouchables and rejects.
Fat with ill fitting clothes and loud laughter strikes as inappropriate.
The stench was of sweat and alcohol and abandonment.
All these people have is each other.
On the bus they make awkward small talk and call to each other by name.
They show the kind of respect and love for each other that can be seen only by people who have known each other too long to act indifferent. There is a kind of relief in the bus ride, a chance to spend time with the other untouchables. To share in a kind of chivalry that most people think is dead.
The bus driver calls out, “Job Lot” and 3 people from different parts of the bus call out, “Yup.”

“The yups have it” he says. No doubt inwardly congratulating himself on his cleverness — the ‘humor’ that makes his utterly dull life somewhat bearable.
In this band of outcasts I am the one feeling exclusion. I have retreated into White Teeth, choosing to read rather than interact with these people. Twice I offer up my seat to the overcrowded people standing and sitting on the floor in the back. Once to a young mother with a medicare card, buck teeth and a drug problem to match her ‘get er done’ shirt. She is sitting on the floor of the bus with her blond baby girl and their stroller.

and again to an old man who has been standing for the duration of the ride — over an hour — before I notice him.
it wasn’t until later that the irony struck me. of me, the only black person they’ve seen all month, offering up my seat to go stand at the back of the bus.

Both times my offer is refused.
when I get off of my first bus ride I am so uncomfortable I ask a hispanic man who is missing his two front teeth for a cigarette. He gives me one and loans me his green bic, and offers me two for later.
we drove from Northampton to Greenfield and the stop is teeming with the most odd assortment of strangers I have seen all week.
(I have spent the last week riding the subways of New York City)
these people sit outside on the ground and embrace each other. they share stories and guffaw every few moments and I feel utterly out of place. They are ugly and bloated and poor and badly dressed. But their comraderie is enviable.

Not enviable enough.
I walk to the storefront nearby and pick up a bottle of rasperry soda and a pack of mints.
“sorry” says the small white woman with black birds tattooed all into what would be cleavage
“we’re not accepting plastic yet”
I ask for the closest atm and if she can watch my bags for a second.
I come back with 20$ and buy my drink and mints with a muffin.
There’s a black girl working with her, at least. I feel somewhat comforted. or more confused.

I go back outside just in time for the bus to pull up with the driver yelling, “Bus to Athol now boarding!”
I’m the 6th person on the bus that has 10 seats. The line behind me has probably 12 people.
if this state had more money and people less accustomed to always getting shit on it would have been different. They would have better public transportation. They would wait for the next bus. (in MA the next bus is probably hours away.) But this is the greenfield to athol bus, and these people don’t know what rights are.
A bunch of them sit on the floor of the bus and the remainder stand. Many of them have mixed jack or rum into their cokes, some have already been to the liquor store. A fact evident by the brown paper bags and the stench of their breath.

At the Orange stop a girl with bad skin and a worse haircut giggles loudly. “Sure, I’ll take your number” she says to a desperate boy with in a brown hoodie.
They’re both proudly stating that they have found each other.
A dispicable relationship, formed when people literally have no one else.
“It’s not often people want to hang out with me AND my boyfriend.”
I try not to vomit
and watch them get off the bus.

No doubt she feels my eyes leave the page and wander in her direction. She smiles, thinking I am envious of her catch.

I want to warn him.
But he deserves her.
Finally we made it to Athol. I went to sit on the bench near a boy and his son.
He tells his son to get into his toy car and they walk away. Only when they’ve made it the 100 yards away under the bridge does he turn to scrutinize me, far enough away from danger to feel fear.

I sat here on the grass to wait for the next bus.
and finally
the days travels will be over.


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