Behind the Yellow Line
The smell of public transportation is enough to humble even the haughtiest passenger. As we gathered together in anticipation of a familiar routine, we inched closer to the curb, staking claims to an unspoken order. Exhausted sighs from the rundown vehicle reminded us of how long of a week it had been, and how far there was to go before starting anew. Days grew longer and the weather warmer, yet the distance between home and Saturday proved too much for some. I was almost counted in that number, but not today. Today closed the gap. Even for a short time, this ride home would be a vacation from the mundane – a precursor to potential.
While fellow riders grasped at cold, dirty metal poles for stability, limbs uncomfortably extended in futile attempts at avoiding awkward contact, I retreated to my daydreams. Expectation crept up behind me whispering promises of an unlived experience as I ignored each jerk and wide turn of the bus, envisioning what the coming days would bring. Each exiting passenger’s reluctant thanks, and belabored salutations came accompanied by a slight glimmer of hope that maybe this time, this escape could last longer than 48 hours. Imagination, painted with colorful scenes of spontaneity, guided us to a new world waiting on the other side of rickety doors.
Repetitive murmurs from the disheveled homeless man in the corner faded into the background each time the doors opened. Noisy outbursts of laughter from high school freshmen didn’t trigger eye rolls from the elderly, longing for the days of Jack and Jill level decorum. Today, we too were carefree adolescents, blissfully unaware of the judgment being directed our way while subdued spontaneity spread among us.
Feet shuffled as we embraced the intimacy of forced proximity while avoiding eye contact. I shifted my focus from the floor beneath me to the reluctant crowd around me. A host of exhausted hopefuls periodically poked their heads around the human clutter to get a clear view of our location. So often I’d seen these faces come and go, that they felt like a makeshift family – the kind you rarely see and pray they don’t prompt you to lie about remembering them from childhood. I wondered where time would take them, what waited on them at home, what kept them going – my whimsical thoughts peppered with a barrage of meshing body odors and exhaust fumes.
I was no stranger to this feeling, but today an unspoken sense of respect stood between us. Shoulder-to-shoulder, but too distant to hold a conversation, we all exchanged self-conscious glances, occasionally searching for freedom every time the back door hissed and released a passenger.
Perhaps it was the excitement of the days to come that made us take notice of each other’s presence, some divine timing, but in a moment, our shared experience would be long forgotten. If we could just make it a few more stops – a few more minutes.