"I don't have a transfer...," says this sullen brother, trailing off into awkward silence. A lanky dark-skinned fellow about my age, maybe a few years younger and a few inches taller, dressed in an orange waterproof jacket which would work well as a dress on me. Rainier and Forest.
"Well, let's see," I say, noticing the oblong package he's eating from. "Are those peanuts?"
"Can I have some?"
Wordlessly he pours a generous handful into my open hand. "That's cool," I say. "Thank you! This is my dinner!" There is a barely perceptible smile as he begins walking to the back. "Thank you!" I exclaim again. Want to make sure he heard me say that. Partway down the aisle he stops and returns, giving me the rest of the peanuts package. Other people are getting on now, and amidst the hubbub I yell, "Thank you!!" There's a sideways nod of acknowledgement as he retreats to the rear. We continue on toward downtown.
"The next stop is Bayview, that's by Leows, and WorkSource," I say into the mic. Periodically I'll tell them to have a good night. Very important, after all!
At 4th and Pike a huge mob is waiting. I'm delighted. Here they come. The brain has to be at full attention to be present with each face, over and over, changing in seconds, each new person a human being with histories and stories of their own, having nothing to do with those who passed before or after. It's a rush. Here's my dear friend Tracy, out of nowhere, with her brother tagging along– "nice to meet you!" It is a sea wash of faces, beautiful people I've seen somewhere before, shapely fingers or tubby ones, swiping passes and tossing change. Figures with bags and gristle and style, echoes of emotions and headspaces I've lived in myself. I check the back door in the mirror. The orange jacket guy is going out, but no, he's holding for a second, indecision, looking at the stream coming in the front, and now he's coming up to me. Tracy's up front, and the mob is nigh unstoppable, but I'm happy to force it all to a halt if he wants to leave through the front doors. A lot of local chaos at the front.
"Did you wanna step out here?" I say to the man.
"I'll wait for them to get on." Shaking his head. He must have a question.
That can be quite a wait, as it is tonight. The tumultuous wave of humanity continues gushing in for several more minutes, a cacophony of coats and purses and textures, leathery skin and eyeliner, young bunnies in love and ticking time bombs, the tired and the hungry, the last straws and those gentle, neutral faces you can never guess about. I'm reminded of the notion that each of these people, far from being extraneous supporting characters in my blurry periphery, are in fact at the center of their own universe, with loves and losses and families and problems and dreams of their own. The sheer size of such a truth only barely exists inside my comprehension. The earth may be small, but humanity makes it enormous.
Finally they're all in. Mr. Orange steps forward. What did he want?
Just to shake my hand.
He extends his arm over someone else's head. "Ey, thank you," he says with enthusiasm, smiling wide like I'd never expect.
"Dude, thank you for feeding me!"
"No, thank you! For everything!"
"Thank you!" We're laughing now. I think he's just happy to be here, in an accepting and loving space. He says, "you have a blessed night, man!"
Later on in the U-District, a very pale– and very old– we're talking straight out of the bible here– homeless man pipes up from somewhere behind me. "Are you going to Ballard?"
"No. We're just a 49." I say something about the 44, and how it does go to Ballard.
"Do you have any food?"
"I do not have any food."
As he's gathering his things, medium gray and white hair swinging, loading up his elbow crooks and fingers with various bags, it occurs to me. Of course.
"Oh, wait, hey! I do! Check it out! D'you like peanuts?"
"Yes!" he exclaims.
That's two people in one night, giving away the same package of peanuts and feeling great about it. I wonder if he passed it on as well!