Together they sit, sunshine and condescension wrapped around them like a stadium blanket. She, with hair piled skyward, flicks her newspaper in disdain at each new rider who fails to meet her expectations. His shoes likely cost more than most of the ridership’s mortgages, and he looks up from his phone screen to deliver withering glances of disappointment. One young man, however, is not fazed by their gaze, and quietly sits behind them, placing his trumpet case on his lap. His countenance is calm but fierce, with a shock of dark auburn hair swept back, showing green eyes filled with purpose. It seems the married demons of Contempt and Disdain have been relegated to riding with us today. But Gabriel, his archangel-ness hidden for the moment, is about to make their day a little less pleasant.
Vast. Colossal. Matterhorn-esque. In two strides, he reaches the back of our shiny red and grey “C” Line and settles his acreage into a seat. Or three. With a little knit hat perched on his head, and shorts that could serve as a pavilion for all of Andorra, he cuts an incongruous figure of playful disaster. Gently apologetic, his small eyes search the faces of the two women on either side of him, as they scrunch themselves into smaller bundles of themselves. With fingers like Bavarian bratwurst, he gingerly extracts a book from his satchel and holds it close to his face. As he reads, he quietly moves his mouth, soundlessly forming the words. And in doing so, vestigial tusks can be seen in the corners of his beard-covered jaw. The book is a history textbook, “The World At War”, and as he reads, a bellicose aspect appears on his epic face. Ogres often get into college and can blend in on the bus with Bermuda shorts and trendy sock toboggans. But they do need to be careful of their course selections, lest their true natures be revealed.
It’s like the world owes him a favor. Several favors, in fact. A huff of indignation here at sharing a seat, a lip curled in distaste there for needing to move his bag, he is a hunched mass of frustration and entitlement. But on this chilled Monday morning, his sighs and snarls merely careen off his unwanted seat mate. She is bedecked in reds and golds, with the just right amount of embroidered detail to create a majestic but understated beauty. Her face, ageless in years yet wise and serene, turns towards the man and her smile beams at him like the shining beacon of a lighthouse in a New England fog. For the Avatar of Gratitude to climb aboard the shiny “C” Line to plunk down next to that guy is not a coincidence. Well played, Universe, well played.
As the wind whips the trees and rain sluices down the windows, riders climb aboard looking more like characters in a maritime disaster movie than weekday commuters. So among the drenched and weary, he stands out. Tall, with vaguely vulpine features and reddish-grey hair, his ankle-length charcoal trench coat is immaculate, and dry as a town under the thumb of a temperance league. His eyes, although moving this way and that, seem to be unfocused. He waves, jauntily, to a set of empty seats, and takes a few steps towards them, almost careening into an Emo Dude, who is oblivious due the floppy hair covering his eyes. At the moment of expected impact, with a slightly startled look on his face, the tall man vanishes entirely. When it is a holiday for many, the bus can seem more like someone’s dream of what a bus ride is like. In extreme cases, the dreamer actually joins us for the ride.