[This piece contains explicit language, because that is what happened.]
Beauty infuses this day. Ignoring all the system’s programming to buybuybuy, I instead head in to work, where everyone goes to earn the money to buybuybuy the things they think they need because they must compensate for being at work all the time. Hourly workers have to work the hours when there’s no PTO. What does it mean that we live in a society where that is a comprehensible sentence?
People wait along Fourth Avenue for the Macy’s parade, lawn chairs out. Cops on bicycles warn tourists about parking. My buddy took four ticketbooks with him this morning. You bet they’re writing tickets.
A Scotch-taped sign announces the bus is one street over, and I run through a thick crowd of people going anywhere but to work. Only one other rider shares it with me. The bus makes the rounds and only one other gets on: a youngish guy who shouts over his headphones. It’s imperative he know how long it will take to get to Target.
Thanksgiving images have not all been removed. The flyer taped to the lamppost in the picture above invites anyone to a hot meal a few blocks over. When the bus rounds the corner before the freeway, I can see a marching band, dressed in red, shuffling into place, the sousaphones glittering brass.
It is a brilliant fall day, and not chill. The light has that weightless, diamond quality winter light has when the days are short and heaters run. Ten years on this phrase still comes to mind when such a sky comes: severe clear.
I leave in the dark. My head is spinning with the foul taste of HTML and I force myself to be in the stillness all around. The place is deserted, the normal crush of traffic gone. Bluewhite light is stern and vacant, like in a high school parking lot. Trees still have leaves, but not many. I do not think of malls or shopping or all the years growing up and after when Friday was bright or warm or filled with something or a sanctuary. It is right now with the smooth empty, and there is nothing wrong.
The bus makes ridiculous time across the bridge. Downtown is busy: two guys wearing Angry Birds character hats joke next to a gaggle of teenage girls, their hair wild. A beautiful woman with dark eyes hold her red coat closed with a black-gloved hand and scowls at me, but I am no longer upset by the scowls of stranger women. In the bus tunnel the violin busker is thanking two teen girls with spiked blond hair. They are thanking him, over and over, as they bow to each other. The entrances to Nordstrom’s and the mall swirl with gentle peopled streams.
Trains come and the platform empties. People with coats and tired eyes wait for the 106, none of them carrying a bright store bag. When the bus comes we get on like it is any other day.
A young couple sits a few rows ahead of me. They are probably clean and proper beyond their parents’ wildest expectations, which is usually why such young people wear torn clothes and have hair in dreads. They smile and whisper to one another, his arm around her.
Schizos like this one I don’t see much now: loud, wild-eyed, connected at points to here and now but only as portals to her internal reality. She has a pink top, a mishmash of shopping bags packed with soft items, and a dazzlingly foul mouth.
I keep tellin her, you got to get the dick in the pussy. That’s the shit I’m talkin bout, because the coochie ain’t no goddamn place for no shit. Boy GOD DAMN they ain’t no way around all them fuckin’ dicks in pussies. That’s the problem in the world, boy–I tells her, you take that goddamn shit and you PUT IT IN.
At first I thought the woman was on the phone yelling at someone. If nothing else, cellphones have given the mentally ill a few seconds’ grace. She zeroes in on the couple and delivers buckets of profane clanging. I see the couple grow rigid and never, never turn around.
The woman doesn’t bother me or anyone else, though she shouts with particular emphasis a few times. We all know how to act: don’t look, don’t respond, don’t engage. No one is faced with the difficult task of ignoring someone sitting one seat over, or making the leap to bail to another seat, or abandon the bus for a dark wait. She is in her own island of cleared seats shouting about dicks and coochies to nobody.
This is Thanksgiving. Truly it is. It is no less Thanksgiving than it is in a prison cell, in a hospital filled with life-sustaining machines, in that hall the morning’s sign inviting anyone to a hot meal. How many wait unseen, alone, unheard, sleepwalking through this day like any other? Only this one woman is loose, and it looks like she is on her way home. She has a place to go. She is among the fortunate, being on this bus.
Where I get off, things are closed, handwritten signs in windows announcing a proud return on Monday. No one in cool and rundown Georgetown is afraid to take the weekend off in service to themselves. I have not watched football or hung out with friends or been part of the consumer orgy desperate to fill its emptiness. I connected eighth grade frustration to now, where it dissipated, was at last resolved. I realize whatever I may feel or doubt, I have all my marbles, and anyone who said otherwise was a long time ago. I am not a schizo, whatever some of them said.
I am sure the schizo made it home, and I am thankful for that.