Thursday, November 4, 2010

school bus

1984 was the last time I rode on a big yellow school bus, so it felt a little strange to climb the rubber-grooved steps. I did not see many people board before me so, when I climbed the stairs and faced the seats from the front, I was surprised to see that most of the bus was already full. Apparently, everyone else had been on for a while. I had been chatting with Mr. Perez on the sidewalk earlier and we had lost track of time. I hoped the others had not been waiting for me long.

As I thought about where I’d sit, I recalled many years ago sitting in the back of the bus with the “cool kids.” I certainly was not one of them now, so I settled for a nondescript row: the fourth. Because Mr. Perez was staying behind, I did not have a friend with me so I sat alone--sliding all the way to the sliding window, hoping someone would sit next to me and strike up a conversation. No one did.

Settling myself into the seat, I remembered how small I felt when I first rode a school bus; a little scrap such as myself didn’t stand much chance seeing over the seat ahead of me in grade school and I still had difficulty as an adult. The high back and the seat bottom formed a neat ninety degree angle, commanding me to sit upright, properly postured. And--ah yes!—there was the familiar green color and the imitation leather. Strangely, such a remembrance made me feel happy and sad all at once because it had reminded me of those days when the past didn’t matter and the future was all there could be. How life had changed! Today, I felt as though I were carrying a spiritual pack onboard—and somehow heavier. There would be no lugging it on the vacant seat behind me.

The bus pulled away from the curb, taking me to a place I had never been before. I was nervous, like it was my first day of school all over again. The women across the aisle chattered in Arabic while some other ladies behind me gossiped in Spanish. There were few men on board and I was the only white person.

I glanced out the window, just under the metal divider that seemed to form an industrial horizon. Praying, I could see beneath the surface. The sun was setting and the trees were getting ready to turn. Not yet, but soon. For now, hidden preparations.

I prayed, asking God for a friend. Maybe someone in the sixth row this time. Maybe someone with some color and, perhaps, some glue to share.

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