I ride the bus to and from school and as such have met many "bus people." In fact, I have so many stories about these people that I have already written a screenplay based upon them. But in the time in-between when I finished my screenplay and now (a year or two) I have enough stories for yet another. I should make a coffee table book with artistic photographs from the bus on one side of the page and a bus story on the other. I know you're thinking that that's a good idea and that you're gonna steal it but too bad -- there's a flaw in your little scheme. You don't know the bus stories but I do (unless, of course, you're one of the few people who have read my screenplay in which case I still win because it's legally protected). But for all of you nice people out there who weren't thinking of stealing my idea (let's not get into the lunacy of that statement) here's a free bus story:
I pretended to be engrossed in reading the comments I'd received on a story I had workshopped earlier that day but he kept staring at me. I reminded myself to keep my eyes moving on the page to make it look realistic but I could see this stained fellow craning his neck over his shoulder to watch me. I figured that if I acknowledged him he'd get what he wanted and look away... or keep staring because often people on the bus just like to stare. Once one man perched behind his seat and peered out at me from the crack between his seat and the next with Gollum eyes the entire ride. In fact, for a moment I wondered if this new starer was the Gollum from that one time. I glanced at him and smiled hi before looking back to my work and he smiled back then started laughing. I tried to ignore him but he laughed even louder so I looked back to him.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I'm sorry, but when I see something beautiful, I have to look."
Before you think it - no, I'm not sharing this bus story just to point out how a grungy man with a Greek accent tried to give me a compliment. There's actually even more humor involved than him complimenting me, so bear with me.
"Whether it's a china or a poem, I have to look. Beauty is beauty." Yah seriously, I swear he said china. I have no idea why but he did.
"Thank you, that's very flattering," I replied then looked back to my papers as my woman instincts hollered to end all contact before the imminent sleazy move was made. But what he said next made me look at him again.
"I hope you are as kind as you are pretty."
I've had people ask me if I'm nice before. What the hell? I took a sailing course and was the only female in the class. Before we went out on the lake we had to pass a swimming test and right a flipped sailboat. When you're the only girl among 20 or so guys they either forget you have ovaries and treat you like one of them, or they treat you like a lady. I'm actually not sure which category my class fell into, but at the time I was in the middle of the pool climbing into a sailboat in the most conservative two piece I owned, surrounded by staring, half-naked men. I started to haul my sorry ass onto the boat when I tugged at my top, muttering that I didn't want it to come off. My teacher somehow heard from across the pool and shouted, "that would be a bonus!" I should mention that my teacher was a large Englishwoman. I'm still not sure about that comment but I'm digressing. After I righted the sailboat I swam to the edge of the pool, beside her, and as I climbed out she asked, "I take it you're friendly?" What the hell? "Uh, I'd like to think so," was my response and she just sort of stood there as I wrapped a towel around myself. Since she didn't offer any clarification I took a stab at her meaning. "If you're worried about the guy thing, it's fine - I was raised with a brother on either side of me." She insisted that she hadn't thought that it would be a problem then went back to watching the next poor sod flopping about on the centerboard of the tipped boat. It was only later that someone tried to convince me that "friendly" was English lesbian code for "gay" and that I'd answered incorrectly. But now I've completely veered off course. Where was I? Oh yes. The Greek asked me if I were kind.
"...I... hope...so..." was my ingenious answer.
"Good, because aside from beauty, kindness is the most important part of a woman..." and he was off praising feminine kindness. I smiled benignly and nodded, wondering why kindness wasn't also an important quality in a man, from his point of view.
"I hear people saying 'beetch.'" He was pronouncing "bitch" with an accent. "They say, 'son of a beetch,' and this all the time and I did not know that was what I was hearing. It is not nice to call a woman this name. But kindness, kindness is very important."
I'll bet, buddy.
"You know," he continued. "I know this woman - for a thousand days and a thousand nights I have known this woman, and she say to me, she says, 'You are a dangerous man!'"
Aha. I often forsake the propriety most young women demonstrate by moving seats to get away from people like this because I can sense a future story and a character out of these yearning individuals. They're great material... and they're our fellow human beings. In my experience, when a bus person has randomly started a conversation with me, they have something they feel they need to confide in someone, anyone -- they just need to get it off their chests. So here it was - the reason for this man's rant on female kindness.
"I had been angered," he said, "and I kicked... I kicked over a pile of rocks that I had stacked there. And she say to me, 'You are a dangerous man.'"
He was obviously still hurting from this accusation, possibly attempting to grapple with the fact that he might be dangerous. For all I know he may have just murdered someone. But for some reason my mind was caught up on that pile of rocks. Was that his "kick when angry" pile? I mean, what were they doing there? I think I'd like to stack up a pile of rocks to kick whenever I get angry and feel "dangerous," too.
He continued on about how the man in my life better be treating me right and how he hoped that I had more focus in my life than a man. I'd started to zone out so I held up my papers and said, "I'm a writer. School is my focus." I thought I'd impress him with that but I don't think he cared if he understood, but he did thankfully switch his rant from what would constitute as blasphemy to a hard-core feminist to the dangers of trying to read in the weak light provided by the lamps on the bus. He made his sleazy move then, inviting me to sit closer to the light which was conveniently beside him, but the gods were with me and it was my stop.
"May I know the name of this lovely creature I have been talking to?"
On the page that sounds rather suave, doesn't it? I had to give him credit and told him my name (though in retrospect I don't know how much of a compliment "creature" is).
"Kellie," he said as he tugged on his baseball cap just before I rose to get off the bus. "Do I look like a dangerous man to you?"
He posed with his profile to me and I studied his Hawaiian shirt. "You look like a traveler. You even have the tourist shirt."
He smiled and winked. "Thank you, Kellie. I will not tell you my name - that is for next time."
"It's a promise, then." I wondered why I said it even as I was stepping out of the bus. I guess because it sounded like a scripted response.
No offense to the guy, but I hope there is no next time. But Greek sleaziness aside, the point of the conversation was that he must have been thinking that women see him as dangerous (he's on the right track but sleazy doesn't always equate danger) and was hoping for some sort of feminine redemption. Like the portion of the Hero's Quest when the hero must face some representation/expression of the feminine. Whatever the hell "the feminine" is.
Okay, I admit that I thought the rock-kicking bit was comedic and worth the telling this story but now it's been weighted down by musings on the human condition. But then again, maybe that's something worth musing.
Melissa - Nikki barks at Orange Wraith? How funny, but... how are they "orange" if they're invisible?
tesajb - Dude... I didn't know about the wild Wraith parties in the woods. Instead of alcohol they must make a human drink all kinds of chemicals then feed off of him/her to get some kind of high.