“It is easier to be enthusiastic about humanity with a capital “H” than it is to love individual men and women, especially those who are uninteresting, … exasperating, depraved, or otherwise unattractive.”
“Loving everybody in general may be an excuse for loving nobody in particular.”
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” -C.S. Lewis
I ride the number 9 bus to work.
On the way uptown people blast music videos, or have loud conversations with their phones or to no one in particular, and we try not to look at each other. It smells like old socks and there is always someone eating Burger King.
Women speak to each other in Spanish and a teenager raps in the back, and we all ignore the man yelling at us while drinking a Coors Light.
“This the number nine?” a man asks when he gets on, walking up the aisle.
“Mmmhmmm,” people mumble on down the line.
At the next stop a woman hobbles on to the bus talking loudly to the man behind her. Her leg is bandaged.
The bus driver asks her to move back further to make room for a wheelchair. She tells him she is not going to move. The bus driver tells her she has to.
“I’m disabled,” she screams at him. “I got hit by a car.”
“Can you walk?” the driver asks.
“Then please move,” he says.
She limps forward, looks at the man she got on the bus with and says, “Get ready for the ride of your life, we’re going to bum-fuck Egypt.”
Other people follow her to make more room. A woman sitting across from me strikes up a conversation with the man standing in front of her. Her high pitched voice bores into my brain like a vole rat. A particularly obnoxious vole rat.
“You can sit if you want,” she tells him.
“I’m ok,” he says.
“Well you could sit if people would move their stuff,” she says looking directly at me.
I look up from my book. Unsmiling and without breaking eye contact I move my bag from the seat next to me into my lap.
“Wouldn’t you want someone to do that for you? It’s the nice thing to do,” she says, continuing to direct her comments at me.
A white, hot anger takes over my body. Something bordering on violence.
I glower at the woman.
“I hate her,” I think as I get off at my stop. But I also hate myself for hating her.
In the morning it is overcast and gray and I walk to my stop with the hope that the vole-rat woman is not on the bus today.
Instead there is another woman talking. But she is talking about a friend who has a pet python.
“It’s this real pretty golden color,” she says to the people sitting next to her. “But it was kinda nasty cause she let it crawl all over her baby and let it lick its face.”
“Hell, no,” I whisper to myself.
But she hears me and starts to laugh.
“I don’t want any snakes near me or near children,” I say.
“Right?” she says. “This snake was all lickin on the baby’s face. I told her, ‘You gotta put that snake where it belongs, away from people. They will turn on you, you never know.’”
I make a face of mock horror.
“I don’t like dogs neither,” she says. “I don’t trust em. My friend tells me her dog won’t bite me, and I told her, ‘The devil is a liar.’”
“The devil is a liar,” I say slowly and it makes me laugh. “I’ve never heard that phrase before.”
This makes her laugh. Her laugh livens up the bus in a way I have never seen happen.
The sun shines through the dusty, grimy window highlighting the brilliance of her golden brown eyes. People smile at us laughing. Two Indian women with beautiful nose rings hold small children on their laps. A man opens a bag of Cheetos and the happiness on his face at the first bite is like a small child’s at Christmas. Behind him there is a man wearing a bright yellow jacket with a leopard on his shirt and a blue bow tie and he looks like he has just stepped out of a magazine.
The bus lurches to a stop.
“This is me,” I say.
Right before I step off she shouts, “Hey!”
I look back.
“Remember. The devil is a liar.”
Then number nine lumbers off, carrying with it a myriad of souls, snorting like a great beast up Central Avenue.
photo credit: Public Transport <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/126459794@N03/46876589842″>Heidebloem 17</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>