Photo by Tim Willis.
I'm going to hold off from posting for a week or so as I go into what some of my friends call hibernation mode– not sleeping, mind you, but preparing for my September 18th show, which promises to be different from all the ones previous! Meanwhile, I'll leave you with this, a collection of interesting moments I've had recently, which all strike me with the unexpected nature of how events sequence themselves....
What the uninitiated would call a "crazy lady" boards and sits near the front. She speaks to the air in front of her. Another woman with more regular brain function, strangely affluent for the 7 and somewhat out of place as a result, boards at Union without paying. "I owe you $2," she says by way of explanation, and sits next to the unstable speaker. She ends up earning her ride through much more useful means than paying me cash– she speaks to the rambling woman next to her and keeps her at bay, artfully engaging her and keeping the thread of decorum alive. She probably didn't know how valuable her presence would end up being on the bus, but I was very grateful. "This one's on the house," I said later.
"God bless you," says a thug at Henderson after I give his friend a transfer. He shakes my hand in the ebullient glow of acceptance. Two hours from now he will be in the Saar's parking lot, fighting another young man, smile gone and a crowd gathering.
Two young men in an unwashed beige four-door, let's call it a Honda or Nissan or somesuch, nothing fancy. They catch my eye as I jog across the street in Rainier Beach because one is black and the other is white, and both seem dressed like– well, as if they just applied to Dartmouth and both like listening to classical music and progressive talk radio. Less than twenty minutes later I'll see them again. The beige car will be smoldering and crumpled from the rear. They'll be standing outside, hands on hips and foreheads, nerves fraught and struggling for balance. But that hasn't happened yet. For now they're simply driving, laughing about something, carefree and present.
A wheelchair is rising up on the lift. One set of wheelchair seats is occupied by an older Muslim woman. The other is a white guy in a suit in his forties– the only white guy in sight, and currently the only fellow around with a suit. He remains motionless as the wheelchair enters. Seeing this, the Muslim woman offers her seat instead to the wheelchair. I stand and walk back to get the straps, and right as the Muslim woman is hesitantly moving out of the way, before I can catch myself, I've said it out loud to the Man in the Suit:
"You don't feel like movin'?"
When he stares slowly and doesn't respond I say "okay," and ask after the wheelchair lady's day. Prejudice earns my disrespect very easily, and I try to forget about it. I ought not to have said anything.
But he pipes up carefully and politely during a break in the conversation: "I actually just finished donating blood. I'm feeling, really woozy right now."
I stand there a second and take him in as an individual. He wasn't a rich white guy preening at all the colored folk around him. No, he was merely a guy, a guy working through some issues, like every single other person. How idiotic of me.
"Oh my goodness, okay. I understand. You're fine. You should relax."
"Oh yeah, let's get you home." Pause. "Listen, I didn't mean to be testy in my tone back there."
"Hey, you're okay. All you did was ask a question."
"Thanks for understanding."
He'll say the same to me when he leaves.
I'm sitting in my seat, turned completely around, elbow on the farebox, talking down two violently furious drunk men. Both have verbally assaulted myself, others, and each other, and will continue to do so with increasing intensity for much of the remaining ride. The police will prove particularly useless this afternoon, both in their failure to respond but more curiously in one officer's regrettable behavior to one of the principals as he boarded, thus instigating the debacle in the first place. I aim for that delicate mixture of asserting myself and remaining flexible, bending like reeds in the wind and never breaking.
One of the screaming men, drowning in a pathetic and ugly hostility, continually restates his former military status. I feel the heady rush of working, really working, struggling to stay on top of a situation. I wonder when I'll see this man again– probably sooner rather than later. I don't know that it'll be just a week, exactly a week, and although next Friday afternoon he will be unkind and unhappy, he will also be sober. He will sneak on the back, all rage and muscle, never mind the fare, tearing his own transfer in a rash of entitlement. But, as he deboards at Othello I'll say to him, without irony, "Thank you, Mister Navy Seal! Thank you for serving!"
And he will slow a little, disoriented and uncharacteristically appreciative, stumbling through words of gratefulness he's not used to using. His voice is an odd fit for "thank you," but he does his best. Confusion. I want to hug the guy, but as in hugging a porcupine, I have myself to consider. I hope he finds more of what is missing in his life.