Anyways, we're sitting here at the North Pole stop, and I'm zoned out with a half-smile on my face, my thoughts drifting fast in the 90-second light cycle. This dark figure brings me back, out there in front of the bus, waving his hand high toward me. Man on a bicycle, mid-thirties, and he's no dealer- it's not one of those child-size one-speeds. Ambling across the intersection. In his tow is a young girl in a pink jacket, struggling forward on a bike of her own. The father isn't dressed to look like most people's first idea of a caring, gentle human being, what with his massive gray hoodie (hood up today), tough-guy goatee, and pants that never heard of a belt line.
But I know this fellow. Like a lot of folks in the young/youngish African-American set, it's just his getup. He's a well-rounded badass. He's only masquerading as the unidimensional, proverbial "one tough mother." His eyes, far from flat, carry a depth and humility built out of the passing years. Empathy. Being a father brings out a certain side of you, making real what were only possibilities before. He's the fellow I once wrote about as follows- "there's a satisfaction in getting a regular rider on a new route, where you sense that they're in on your whole schtick, they know how you roll and they like it. I see him in the mirror, looking toward me with mild amusement as I do my thing."
He gets around, and I mostly know him from the 7 and other south-side work, so to see each other out here in the far northern hinterlands is a welcome surprise. Aurora is great, but it's not quite my turf in the way Rainier is (I grew up riding the 7), so seeing a familiar face is always nice. My face lights up with a look of half-mock, half-real surprise, and I return the wave with elated gusto.
There is a world-weary kindness in him that washes into excitement when he sees me, and, I realize, in myself as well. It's his day, each one better than the last, and I'm nourished by the sight of it all, the richness of possibility I see in him, in his daughter, the new directions they'll pave that I can only guess at. You seem him and you think, he'll smile again before his time draws to a close. He gestures at his daughter, pointing me out to her: "it's that bus driver!"
She's too busy trying to stay balanced on her bike to pay attention. We'll forgive her that. "Happy New Year," I yell out my open window. "You too, Happy New Year!"