Saturday, October 3, 2009

On the Bus

Coming home from work exhausted, dizzy from the noisy, creaking city bus, I look up from the book in my lap and see a boy and his father. They both wear baggy jeans and sweatshirts, they are the color of au lait coffees. They sit next to each other on the bus.

Soon, the boy's father stretches out and rests his head in his son's lap. The boy curls over his father's shoulder and puts his head on his father's chest. Their familiarity is intimate, practiced. They touch with the casual, proprietary air one saves for one's own pocketbook or a jacket carried over the arm. My heart swells; it is as if I, too, am being touched in this familiar way.

When this position gets too uncomfortable, the boy (curly-headed and observant) sits up and puts his fingers on his dad's face, playing with the way his father's eyes close and the way his forehead wrinkles. His fingers are neither gentle nor rough, but insistent, inquisitive. The man doesn't brush his son's fingers aside, but waits until, on their own, they finish exploring.

The boy takes an envelope from his pocket, and studies the two Red Sox tickets inside. He asks his father a question, maybe about the seats. I don't like to overhear.

We are headed south into the city from the suburbs, and the bus jangles like a woman's heavy costume jewelry or an aluminum can filled with concrete dragged, without mercy, behind a bicycle. It takes the potholes too seriously. I call my brother first and then my father. My brother is in the middle of something but my father answers with a fond "Why, hullo there!" and it is as if I can touch his face with my fingers. We talk all the way to the bus station and I walk out into the street where it's raining and we keep talking, even though we make mistakes (He thinks I was born in 1975. I wasn't.), we are both unwilling to let go of the connection.

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