The Charges Were Reversed
I used to spend more time looking at the people around me but I know them now, the 8:15 AM weekday bus is all the same people doing the same things, going to work or dropping their kids off at school. Occasionally I see someone cute and I wonder if I seemed more open, or whatever the fuck it is that people say, if I’d have those stories that Eli has. You know the ones that are like “I met this girl on the train today, I got her number. We’re going out this week…”
There is a new guy today — he is wearing a white button down with black dress pants or pants that are supposed to look like dress pants and black sneakers. The shirt is untucked and hanging low around his hips and he has a tote bag that isn’t even a tote bag. It’s one of those reusable grocery bags they started using in New York after the plastic ones were banned. They feel like thin foam and they rip very easily. His is black and says New York on it really faded — it could be because he’s kept it alive for a very long time or because those things are pieces of shit and never look not faded to begin with.
He is holding bodega coffee and the lid does not look very sturdy but he does not seem worried that it might spill onto his white shirt. He has tattoos on his arms that cover his hands and are crawling out from under the collar up his neck towards his face. The sneakers, his discomfort in the outfit, the way he looks ill at ease — maybe he’s heading to an interview for some sort of half bougie waiter job. He pulls the yellow string for his stop and I watch him leave, I guess we’ll never fall in love. I stare at him as the bus pulls away, he takes his phone out of his pocket and is obviously lost, figuring out which way to go which I find funny even though I would have had to do the same. Why is it embarrassing to let strangers know that you don’t know where you are?
Now that he’s off the bus I am back to my usual state of irritation with no one to daydream a life with. There are two sisters behind me, they both have ipads in those kid drop-proof cases with handles on the side. One or even both is playing something out loud. Sitting next to me is a silent little boy with a speaker around his neck and his hands folded neatly in his lap. He seems so polite and well mannered while the ipad girls are making grating noises so severe I feel like throttling someone, possibly even a child.
A kid sitting in front of me yells “EVERYBODY WILL PANIC” and then resumes normal conversation at a normal volume like some momentarily possessed child in a horror movie who has no recollection after they snap out of it. They look at their mother who is at the foot of the bed with tears in her eyes and a look of terror on her face.
Fedora man is also on the bus today. I first noticed him a year ago and in the time since our routine has stayed the same except like four months in he started wearing a fedora and he’s been wearing it ever since. He gets on a couple of stops after me. Technically he gets on at the stop closest to my apartment but if I text the 511 number and see that the bus is more than 3 minutes away I walk up the street to a further stop. It adds bus stops to my commute but if I went the other direction I’d be waiting even longer for the bus. And the stops further down are increasingly chaotic. There are children screaming, someone playing “touch the sky” from a speaker, and a woman on the phone saying she’ll punch someone in the neck.
So I get on at the earlier stops so I can get a seat in the elevated back part of the bus. I feel like the lower level is meant for the elderly and a lot of them get on half way through my trip to work. I could sit on that level and simply get up if one needed the seat but then I’d be standing for the majority of my 45 minute bus ride to the office where I’ll be sitting for 8 hours anyways no matter how often I get up to “get my steps in.” The situation also drives me into a little bit of a panic. What if you didn’t really consider yourself of age to be offered a seat by a young person then one day it happens to you? You’re offered an occupied seat and you’re forced to deal with the idea that you were once the person offering it and how dare that little shit assume. So I sit in the back of the bus and get off on the last stop.
Fedora man isn’t on the bus every day but I always know when he’s here because the wheelchair ramp comes down and changes the weight displacement of the bus while the driver gets out to help him. If I somehow missed that part I’d still know he’d gotten on — he has a distinct voice, he’s very loud and always on the phone talking about his artwork and money and how much money his artwork is selling for. Tens of thousands of dollars he just can’t make enough to satisfy demand.
But like my guy we are both on this overcrowded sardine can on wheels with children screaming for coco melon but maybe very rich successful artists take the M21 too. Today was different but it started the same. He was on the phone like he should be but he wasn’t saying the usual “my painting sold for $70,000” he said a series of alarming sentences:
“The charges were reversed”
“I’ve got lots of money”
“I’ll come in guns blazing”
I wonder who he’s talking to, what the charges are and if people are nicer to him then they want to be because of the motorized wheelchair — I don’t think I could listen to this man for hours.
My suspicion is that he is in fact not on the phone, that these are fake calls like the ones I used to make in highschool when I was walking through a hallway where I thought a kid would call me fat. The strangeness today is that I forgot he was on the bus — he went quiet and I am always aware of his presence. One time he was so loud that the only other person there looked at me and said “this is crazy right?” and he was right next to fedora man but it seemed like he didn’t hear or register it and so that guy laughed very loudly while fedora continued yelling about his successful gallery shows.
He doesn’t have a usual stop, it seems like he just gets off when he’s done with his very real calls. But today he’s been silent for 15-20 minutes, I forget that he’s even on the bus until he yells at the driver,
“DUDE IM GETTING OFF”
The bus driver is stopped and already lowering the wheelchair ramp and preparing to get out of his cubicle when fedora man yells again
“IM GETTING OFF”
The bus driver looks at him while the ramp finishes going down. He scoots off and I wonder where he will go and what his day entails.