Cajun Mutt Press Featured Writer 12/09/19

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Tour Group

I would get up at 5:00 and walk
in the rain cold snow to the bus stop near
my place and wait with the others
from my neighborhood. There were four
of us. An older white woman, myself,
and an Asian woman and a black woman,
both twentyish, the black woman a student
I supposed for the chemistry book she often
carried. And we’d all
show up in the ten-minute window
before the scheduled arrival
and acknowledge each other
with the slightest of nods
and quickest of looks but never
with speech. There was recognition
but no greetings,
no hellos, no talk of the weather
or the clothing and accessories it
required or where in the neighborhood
we all lived or where we were going.
We were a silent
bunch all wrapped in thoughts
of what the day might bring, perhaps wishing
for a car on the colder days,
enjoying the sunshine when it was there
and thinking maybe this bus thing
wasn’t so bad as it saved on car
payments and insurance and gas.
Even when it rained we’d be there
each in a huddle of our own
under a tiny umbrella
looking at phone or book
or up the street for headlights.

When the bus was late we’d stop
reading and phones would find their way
into pockets and, we’d collectively stare
up the road willing the appearance
of the monolith, and when it came
into view, we’d stop looking and adjust
purses and backpacks and a couple
of us would step toward the sign
marking the stop while the other two
stepped first back and then moved in line
behind with positions
determined by arrival times.

Being near the end of the line
the bus would be almost empty
and we’d step up when the door opened
and drop our coins or slide the dollar bills
in, get our transfer slips and each
find a seat of our own no closer
than two seats to one of the others,
and then it would be back to books
and phones and looks out the window
as south Seattle turned into downtown
where we all got off for transfers
or work or school or coffee or early
morning liaisons or drinks
or breakfast or yoga or taekwondo
or a rush to the bathroom,
the nearest bathroom,
any bathroom
as we all pursued the only lives
we could in the moment hoping
that soon we could sleep in a little longer
and let the others in our little group
ride the bus to their own dreams
with their little umbrellas in the rain
while we had
new dreams
of our own.

And it happened.
The last time I saw the two younger
women was the day before a snowstorm.
Perhaps when that snow hit they
looked out their windows and wisely
said, “Screw this bus shit.” It was the older
woman and me then for a little
while until one day when she had a suitcase.
It was light blue and had a green ribbon
on the handle. There was a Seahawks
sticker on it and she pulled it awkwardly behind
her as if it were too heavy. When the bus came
the driver lowered the handicapped
ramp for her and she sat right near the front
asking him about connections to the light
rail for the airport. And then she too
was not there the next morning.

I was alone then in my life and at the bus
stop and I liked it that way for a little
while, but then I too one day rode the bus
to a different destination where I got off
to pursue different dreams in a different
part of town where I waited at different bus stops
with different and always changing
people who talked and shifted and cut
in line and asked questions demanding of time
and understanding and responses that prevented
reading and where the bus arrived almost always
full which meant standing and squeezing and even
less reading. I was on to new
dreams then, but I missed that old group,
the four of us waiting
with common purpose and in silent
agreement with no intruders. And I wondered
sometimes if they missed it too,
the quiet of that pause at the bus stop
between home and world, the brief looks,
the recognition, the wait
for the seats we knew were coming
on the ride that would carry us
in that time
to the rest
of our days.

©Dave O’Leary all rights reserved

DOfwP

Dave O’Leary is a writer and musician living in Seattle. He’s had two novels published (The Music Book, Booktrope, 2014 and Horse Bite, Infinitum, 2011) and has had prose and poetry featured in Slate.com, the Portland Book Review, Vamp Cat Magazine, Turnpike Magazine, Line Rider Press, and Cajun Mutt Press. Both of his novels featured poetry mixed in with the prose, and now he is at work on his first full-length collection of poetry.

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