With a break from higher temperatures than we’re used to in this part of the country, the tension level aboard the 120 as we head into downtown is more normal. The ridership appears more at ease, now that our familiar drizzle of rain creates windblown rivulets of watery design on the windows. More at ease except for the man in the center seat.
At the bendy-bit of the bus, he sits alone, dressed in all black from the neck of his inky shirt to the tips of his black oxfords. His face and hands are pale and pink, and his head is smoothly shaved; round and shiny like a freshly hatched egg. He’s very anxious. Anxious particularly about the bag of trail mix that is sitting next to him. He touches it often, making sure it is still all there, and that there are no flaws in the plastic bag containing its nutty, salty, dried fruity, chocolate goodness. He looks at it, seems to think deeply, and then smiles. Until worry creases his face and he checks it again, glancing around, and often cocking his head sideways, as if listening to something far away.
It isn’t until I see a glimmer of greenish light reflecting off the cashews that I understand. Someone has figured out that Superman loves on-the-go snacks, and Lex Luthor is determined to give him a special Kryptonite-laced mix of his own diabolical making. I hope my stop arrives before Luthor does whatever nastiness he’s planning that will draw Supes to the bus and the tasty but deadly bag of snacky delight.
Buried somewhere deep within the Stygian recesses of his soul, a song begins to take shape. It is an ancient melody; it was sung when the world was new and only just finding its place within the universe. But for some, the music is silent. It lays dormant, waiting for just the right key to turn in a very unique lock. For this man, the key is about to be turned.
He stands in the aisle of the bus, riding the 125 as he has for what seems like an eternity of commutes. His blonde hair trimmed just so and with enough product in it that it doesn’t quite look real, but more like an interchangeable hairpiece on an action figure or even Barbie’s erstwhile boyfriend, Ken. His face is a study of impassivity and slight disdain; a small sneer curls his top lip from time to time. His cold, blue eyes look without seeing, glancing only perfunctorily at his fellow riders.
Until he is nudged from behind, ever so gently. Twisting around to launch a withering glare on the offender, he comes face to face with a woman as tall as he, with black, glossy hair and eyes as dark and deep as the Mariana Trench. She is beautiful in an unusual and somewhat avian way, by the shape of her mouth and the bone structure of her face. She cocks her head, slightly, looking at him with one eye and he freezes in mid-turn. The key has found the lock.
Suddenly, far within him, the music begins and he sees, truly for the first time, the world around him and his fellow travelers. The bus arrives at the next stop with a lurch and, as he grabs a handrail to keep himself steady, she kisses his cheek, noticing the salty tears on his face, and quickly vanishes through the opening doors.
Raven may be a trickster, but she loves humanity, and delights in revealing what is always there, deep inside of us.
Flock of Seagulls hair without the verticality. Tank top. Nose ring. Highway patrol aviator sunglasses. Shorts, black Vans, and black stockings. I can hear Nina Garcia in my head: “I question the taste level.” Fashion is forward. And backward. And sometimes all directions at once.
Wound so tightly, you can hear the patter of tap shoes on his last nerve. He almost did himself a mischief when a baby sneezed.
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.