Three women

Riding the bus in a sideways seat halfway back, I was directly opposite a door, mostly transparent, giving a clear view of everything on the sidewalk side. On a stretch of one-lane street without curb parking, the view was enjoyable — only people and trees and front yards, not of a thousand cars out the window.

Came a stop light where we waited, the bus idling, and through the glass door I spied a woman on the sidewalk. She was 30 or so, white, staring back at me through the glass door. Our eyes eyed each other almost instantly, and she gave me an intensely disdainful sneer, a glare that said I frickin' hate you, silently but louder than words.

I do the same thing sometimes, giving strangers a look of loathing out the window of the bus. I'll aim my disdain at kids in cars keeping pace with the bus, and sometimes they'll laugh. Sometimes I shoot contempt more seriously at the drivers of expensive vehicles, or at obviously over-fancy people on the sidewalk. It entertains me, and sometimes earns the same scowl in return, but this was the first time I'd gotten the look, without giving it first.

I glared back at her, and she double-glared at me, and I triple-glared at her, and then the bus pulled away.

♦ ♦ ♦  

One morning downtown, walking from the bus stop where I'd gotten off to the stop where I'd be getting on, a mid-20s white woman came jogging down the hill. She was fit and attractive and wearing the standard jogging outfit, which looked good on her, of course, with lots of leg out in the open.

Other than the legs, I gave her no thought, preoccupied with whatever stupidity was in my mind at the moment. She rounded a corner and disappeared from sight.

Then I walked past a few bums, smoking cigarettes and having quality bum time. They were talking about the woman who'd just breezed past, saying what you'd expect men to say, things they might've thought were compliments but I doubt she'd agree.

She must hear lewd rudeness on most of her jogs, and yet she jogs, and it pierced my morning fog that her jogging through Bumville isn't merely exercise. It takes courage to be that woman, to wear that outfit jogging across a majority-wino part of downtown.

I'd thought she was out of place amidst blocks of bums, but she wasn't; she made that place her place. 

♦ ♦ ♦  

On a different bus, a different day, the seats toward the front were mostly taken, the back nearly empty, so I seated myself over the right rear wheel.

The first half block of my ride was sublime silence, before a woman alone in the back row said, "I'm not sure why Katie Couric can't recognize my face." As I tried, really tried to cogitate that, she added, "And Stanley Tucci too."

It was a 15-minute ride for me, and through it all the woman in the back seat had silent spells of up to a minute, but soon she had more to say. As we rolled along California Avenue, I learned that not all but some clouds are poisonous, and that the city adds recycled piss to our tap water.

My notebook was already out and open, pen in hand, so this next bit is verbatim:

"I would've stopped having menstrual cycles in the '90s. It's such a bother, and when it did stop it got even worse. 'Hot flashes', they call it, sounds pleasant compared to what it was."

She might've been on the phone, or simply discussing herself with herself. It was awkward and uncomfortable hearing her talk about things so personal, but she spoke loudly, and I understood why the front of the bus had been crowded but the back nearly empty.

Then she said nothing, allowing the person on the phone or the voices in her head time to reply. And then she started complaining about the sewer rates.

When we reached the end of the line and everyone stepped off, I got a glimpse at that woman, and as expected she looked nothing like I'd expected. She was an ordinary, grandmotherly white woman, wearing neatly-pressed slacks with a matching purse. She was not homeless, and to look at her you wouldn't think she's nuts.

Maybe she's not nuts. Maybe she'd expected Katie and Stanley to recognize her because they're all old pals. Maybe she has inside info, and she's right about the clouds and piss water. And if I'd had to endure decades of monthly menstruation, followed by the misery of menopause, I'd complain about it too, maybe as loudly as she did.

Put up with everything in a lifetime, you've absolutely earned the right to complain about it on the bus.



  1. This is a funny and scuzzy like but things happenening deeper too. One of my recent favorites. I would srsly like to know more about all three of these characters but still my favorite line is 'quality bum time', ha.

    1. Five bums, some standing on the sidewalk, some sitting, some leanings. Two were smoking tobacco, two were holding beers. It was late early in the mid-morning, and the bums were laughing and talking.

      That's what I call quality bum time.

  2. Nothing beats quality bum time. I miss it. :(

    1. You can't have quality bum time without quality bums! How's your bum?


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