Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Someone to watch over you

I rode the bus to work this morning. It was a fine November morning, sunny and warm. There was just enough chill in the air for me to wear a jacket. I had a book with me. A good morning.

I switched busses at Central and San Mateo. It is rare for me to ride the bus now, but I rode it to work every weekday for five or six years. I had no trouble identifying the huddle of figures on and around the bus stop as drunks. There were two or three Indian men and one loud white woman. The men never made a sound. They all had the dirty clothes and red, raw look of people who live on the street. The men had long, greasy hair and beards. The big woman had short, bristly hair and a harsh, nasal voice.

I stopped a distance from the bench, pulled my book from my bag and leaned against a light pole. I was trying to read Book 1 of _The Wealth of Nations_, but the woman's volcanic obscenity kept breaking through my concentration. I thought I had finally blocked her out, when one curse-free sentence sailed cleanly through my buffer.

"Momma had a dream that I won the lottery and they found me dead in a field."

I kept trying to focus on the division of labor, until the bus got there.

I positioned myself for early entry onto the bus so I could get a good seat. I did let the old man with a cane on in front of me. I was already in my carefully chosen seat when that loud woman started up the steps. The bus driver took one look at the red, glazed man following her and said, " No, I'm not taking him on the bus."

"Please, he goin' with me to watch out for me. They always cheat me."


"They always cheat me on my check. He's commin' to keep me out of trouble. Please."

The bus driver nodded curtly, and the two stumbled to a seat when the bus started to move. I never saw the man look up, his chin always resting on his chest. I returned to my book.

I was reading when we got to their stop. That voice grated against my eardrums.

"Thank you sir, he's comin' to watch after me. Yessir, he's gonna watch over me."

Her protecting angel.

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