Finally she shared that she couldn't believe what she was looking at, that such an undiscriminating joy could exist in such a space, the sort of place she had until now thought could only be stressed and unpleasant. The idea that our circumstances can be a product of us, rather than the opposite; that's what blew her mind. We can bullwrestle our surroundings into something wonderful, just by being our better selves.
That's what this bicycle guy is doing today, standing with his helmet on toward the front of the 120, observing it all. I'm excited about the construction guys going to their homes on Delridge. I'm excited about taking the S-curves at Graham and Holly without making people sway. I'm excited about this woman's smile, a mirror of my own happiness, along with so much more. Braking just smooth enough, maximizing the space I have between the coach and the stop bar up at Thistle. You don't want it to be too easy.
He's watching me, thinking. Then he apologizes to a lady with a screaming baby. "I'm sorry I shouted at you," he says to her. "I'm sorry I shouted at you earlier."
She knows enough English to understand, and nods okay. They build a smile together, grinning in rueful understanding at an infant with just too much to say.
He comes to the front and we chat about the day before he steps out, grabbing his bicycle. This interaction in turn makes a nearby teen feel confident enough to ask me directions. I go out of my way to interact with teens, in whatever small way I can. They'll make it to the future one of these days, and I want them to feel relaxed among strangers, comfortable living outside of category types. I want to be a hazy memory, a distant idea in their head, that there are ways of operating in this world where forgiveness and kindness aren't bourgeois, coolness is irrelevant, and daring to let down your guard can be the doorway to most of the best things you'll do.
"Are you enjoying your summer?"
"Yeah!" he says in a high-pitched voice. Puberty hasn't struck yet.
"I miss having the summers off!"
He laughs, thinking. It occurs to me he might not feel too socially accepted these days, and I want him to not worry about that. So I say, "It's such a great time, summer, no matter what you're doin'."
He must've been thinking about how to cheer me up about not having summers off, because he says in turn, "but you got the weekends off!"
"Oh yeah," I reply, "plus actually I'm working reduced hours this summer, tryin' to focus more on writing and photography, I do photography–"
"–so it feels like a summer vacation kind of. Plus, but, I mean, I like to drive the bus."
"I can tell!"
"Yeah, I've been doin' this thing where I'm trying not to refer to driving the bus as a "job" or "work." Because,"
"Exactly, it is fun!"
"I bet it must be a kinda hard challenge sometimes, with all these babies crying and stuff…."
"Oh, it's all cool. I bet I cried like that when I was little." Right turn on Barton. "I try to think about how it looks from their perspective."
"You make it a good time in here. You're good with people."
"Thanks, man! Thank you for being friendly, makes it easier for me!"
"Well, yeah, you have a good connection!"
"You also! Thank you! Hold up, lemme announce this– 'okay everyone, we got Westwood Village here, 25th and Barton, 26th, transfer to a number 60, or a RapidRide, or a 21….'"
For me, it's the little throwaway moments which hang in my memory like crystals, coming to me in times of reflection or pain, firming me up and reminding me of the beautiful, many-layered texture of this vast and detailed life. Your castoff hello, your smile in the afternoon light; the warm glow we built together, felt like nothing at the time, but I can't deny it's part of the rising mass inside me, pushing me toward a better self.