He stalled at the sign, pretending a while in the debility that too many expect of overweight gentleman, carefully fit into their 40s. She was a giddy specimen of a woman, jogging along at twice her usual speed, all the while swinging her jostling backpack in tow. The two laughed as she finally reached the curb. “Thank you,” she pushed out with a laugh and a great gasp of air. “No problem, no problem.” And up they went, inserting tickets and coins, whatever they had. And though friends, sat on opposite sides of the bus.
He was overweight by no stretch of judgment, carrying his belly over the curves of his belt. His suit was tinted a dusty blue; time had faded the original black, some twenty years earlier. And she was a motherly sort, dressed in well cared-for jeans and a non-descript sweater. The only mark of uniqueness was the bold assertion spelled out on her chest: “Carpe Dessert.” “A women after my own heart,” I thought, as I played with the odd-figured graphics painted on the sides of a building.
And then they began with the trivialities most half-hearted friends affect. The “How are you’s?” and “Fines” were quoted with ease—a nightly ritual, maybe. Or maybe these two were more genuine than most. Some of my friends have gotten little more from me, so maybe this was a testament to honesty. Good-hearted people sharing their days—a woman with her raggedy old backpack and enlightened sweater, and a middle-aged man who enjoyed a good steak more than was good for him. But they laughed, and they spoke of a few things that I never have. And then, only a short while down the serpentine route of the bus, she got off. The man, half-expecting the conversation to end, half-surprised at its end, choked down the next words he had prepared. The formula finished with a rousing “Good-bye!” on either side of the bus. And that was the end for them.
While I continued on, mastering graffiti on walls, docking children riding bikes without helmets, and wondering who I might call that wouldn’t be busy with something important.