Ann Keiffer

Strangers on the Bus

 Two elderly women board
the shuttle bus ahead of me.
A third is already seated toward
the front, her aluminum
walker folded beside her.
I sit down across the aisle.

The two ladies now at the back
continue to laugh and talk:
about what fruit they buy
—green grapes—
what’s on sale
—green grapes—
what they hate to buy
because it goes to waste
—salad greens in a bag—
what leftovers they have
in the refrigerator
—half a tomato, for one,
leftover rice for the other—
how stuffed peppers are delicious,
a good way to use up leftover rice.

My companion across the aisle sits
quietly, her faded eyes on whatever
she can make out through the bus
windshield. It’s a blowing, chilly day,
and several blocks later she starts a
tug-and-struggle to work her arms
into the sleeves of her beige jacket.
I reach out to help, but by then
she’s got it. I touch her sleeve and
say, “Your jacket looks so soft.”
At my words, she appears to
wake as if from a kind of sleep,
surprised by the contact.
“It’s warm, too,“ she tells me.

Minutes later we discover we are
getting off the bus at the same
stop. We each give a little laugh
when we find we live on
opposite ends of the same street.
Before we go our separate ways,
I smile and say, “Well, bye-bye.”
She hesitates a moment, then asks,
“Do you ever walk around here?”
I say, “I do.”
She says, “Maybe sometime
when you’re out walking,
you could come and knock
on my door, and we could
have a cup of coffee.”
I say, “Sure, we could do that.”

She feels around in her jacket pocket,
finds her remote, and her garage
door begins to rattle its way up.
Before she steps into the garage
out of the wind, she turns back
to me and says, “Do you ever walk
around here?” I have a moment of
confusion. Is she that forgetful?
I say, again, that yes, I do take walks.
She says again, “Maybe when you’re
out, you could come and knock
on my door, and we could have a
cup of coffee together.” I say,
“Yes, we could certainly do that.”
And just then a thought hits me:
Maybe she is repeating herself
not because she is that forgetful
but because that’s how lonely she is.

Ann Keiffer
August 2010

Photo Credit: www.dojoimagestream via Google Image Search


About Ann

I am interested in the strange beauty of brokenness, in transforming possibility in difficult times, in how we heal even when we can’t get better, in the alchemy of surrender, in the interplay of light and shadow, in the bounty of everyday wonders, in the gift of laughter…and writing about it, all and everything.

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