Over and over, she tells him that she did exactly what he asked and she’s pissed that he doesn’t appreciate her. But he said he can’t rely on her, so she’s telling him, over the phone, for all of us to hear, exactly what transpired. She asks him, repeatedly, to confirm that she did indeed do what was expected of her. Their words hit and expend their force, like two fifth graders hurling water balloons at each other. It escalates and the entire bus can feel their relationship tearing at the seams. Humans have the capacity for great art, tremendous acts of courage, and love that triumphs over evil. But sometimes the tantrums suffuse all reason and we lose the ability to be our best. Or even just plain decent. Small scale on the 120 to downtown or large scale across the globe, it plays out and breaks my heart.
With one eye, she knits. Endlessly, the fabric of reality is created. She works by touch. Her vision is focused on the future.
The morning is like many others in early summer. A layer of fog rests atop the mountains like an alpaca shawl, and the still air is a mingle of warm and cool. The ridership is mostly subdued after a few days of higher than normal temperatures for this area, affecting sleep patterns and outdoor routines. Except her. She is supremely not subdued. Squirmy, agitated, and full of fidgets, she changes seats twice, takes off and puts on her jumper on at least three different occasions, and, most significantly, is arguing with herself. “Now, take it NOW!”, she tells herself, loud enough for the nearest four people to hear her clearly. “Not yet”, she replies, in a more hushed tone, with a slight trace of a vaguely Byzantine accent. Her thrashing about culminates in her dramatically flourishing a small, crystal vial containing a bright Kelly green liquid. The previously hushed voice commands “NOW!”, and she pulls the corked top and downs the liquid in a quick and loud gulp. With one more raucous jolt, her fidgeting ends and she settles calmly into her seat for the remainder of our journey. Darkness and Light resides within each of us, with an equal capacity for manifestation throughout our days. And some of us, it seems, have an elixir to help keep that balance in check.
His hair, a dusty brown color that is reminiscent of small, woodland creatures, hangs over half of his face. With the practiced ease of habitual activity, he flips it up, but it falls back down, with a quiet “fwap.” Over and over again, he performs this futile act, and with each repetition, he sighs. It is the sigh of a future eternity of futility and of the indignity suffered in ages past. The gods, it seems, have found a new Sisyphus.
She is lost. Hesitantly, she climbs aboard, her face in an expression that befits someone going to the gas chamber more than riding a downtown commuter line. The drivers nods to the card reader and the cash box for her to pay her fare, and confusion flashes in her eyes, and mixes with the already-present fear. For a moment, I imagine she might bolt out of the door, but she steels herself, holds out her hand and, as she mutters to herself, coins seem to spill from her fingers into the till. That hurdle conquered, she slowly makes her way down the aisle, looking left and right, and her breathing takes on a slightly panicked edge. As she comes nearer to my seat, I see her clothes are hand-sewn and from a sturdy, but unfamiliar homespun wool. Under a layer of grayish dust, she is quite fair, with lovely, but sooty, golden hair. Deciding between sitting next to a sleepy hoodied teen who can barely keep his head upright or a woman scribbling notes in the margins of a romance novel from the library, she chooses the now snoring teen and sits down with a resigned sigh. She reaches into a small satchel and pulls out an empty water bottle and stares at it, as if just now remembering that it was lacking contents. Then I see her adjust something that is tucked up one sleeve, and a slight glow emanates from the folds of cloth. She mutters again, the phrase sounding vaguely familiar, and, quite remarkably, the water bottle fills itself with clear water, cool enough to cause condensation on the sides. As she drinks deeply, the teen next to her suddenly jerks awake as his phone shrieks a baleful ringtone. He answers it, sullenly, and begins an exhausting and loud discussion about shoes, music, abscesses, and Shia LaBeouf. The travel weary woman winces and flinches at his topics and language, and when he shows no sign of finishing, she again reaches up her sleeve. This time I can see a thin rod, with a glow at one end. She mutters again and the teen at once hangs up and falls asleep. In a flash, I recognize the phrase she keeps muttering. “Bippity-Boppity-Boo.” I look closer at her loveliness hidden under a layer of grime and recognition dawns. Oh Cinderella, where is your Fairy Godmother, and why do you have her wand?