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Night Bus Kindness

Empty for favors

Empty for favors

Cold comes before the thick rain. Early dark makes it thinner, more cutting, an absence around the lightpoles so different from the bulging weight it has in summer, creeping and squeezing around everything. Everything is crisp and has an edge.

I am in the tunnel, downtown late. The tunnel is warm, clean and white, the security guards ever-vigilant for anyone too downtrodden: these are chased out, gently, but out. We few legitimate waiters watch the trains go by and wait for the 106 bus.

A man next to me is a little iffy, in terms of what the security immune system would latch onto: shuffling, rough-handed, coat and pants a little dirty and a little threadbare, black. He has the air of a man who works very hard for very little, nothing more desperate. That is plenty desperate enough a week before Thanksgiving.

The bus comes. Kids get on, older Asian women with bags, built white guys covered in tattoos and dressed in Doc Marten black. We all sit in our own space, the bus winding down the long stretch through warehouses. The man sits next to me, head bent, half-asleep.

He pulls the cord a few stops before mine. The bus hits a rough spot and he struggles to get up, move to the front, dig in his pockets.

Busted, man, don’t got my ticket. 

Say what now?

The driver is black too, lanky but with heavy hands, thick glasses with outdated gold frames.

Can’t find my ticket, man. Busted outside that. Got nothin’ for the box.

You got a pass? Pass always good man, don’t need a transfer.

Don’t have neither. I’m meeting friends, though, you wait, let me out, they just over at the club. I can get it if you wait.

Wait? Whatchatalkinbout, man? This a bus.

I’m just bein’ straight. 

The driver opens the door.

Wait? Crazy, man. Don’t worry about it. 

The tired black man in black goes down the steps to the street. They talk more–I can’t hear all of it. The driver listens, then reaches behind him to the small stash of schedules built into his vestibule.

You take these if you need ’em, the stops don’t always have times on ’em. You sure? Tell ’em not to worry about it. If they need a ride they need a ride. I did you a favor, right? Next driver will too. All right. All right. You take care now. Goodnight.

The door closes, the bus goes on. It feels light in the dark.

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