Thursday, July 09, 2009

830. Greyhound bus

Here's a post I began exactly one year ago, written on the way back home from a weekend visiting the same friend with whom I'm hanging out this week on Cape Cod:


Written on the Greyhound bus coming back home from Boston:

There are many strange people in the world, and I think a disproportionate number of them travel by bus. (Maybe I'm one of that number, and the person in the row behind me is writing a post for her own blog.) In any case, I need to chronicle the woman in the front row, window seat, whose reflection I can see starting at the highway. Every few minutes she lifts up a big, heavy, professional-looking camera and takes a picture of the passing blur of a grassy median. Or maybe she's shooting the yellow-grey clouds above a landscape of trees as messy and sparse as the balding head of the man in the seat to my right. Or perhaps she's doing a study of the bus driver's elbow. I wonder what her seatmate is thinking, a dark-haired woman who stares resolutely forward. I would ask, if I were that seatmate. Some mysteries must be solved.

On the trip to Boston a few days ago, my neighbor was a very large woman who would occasionally cough as if trying to subdue a hurricane or uproot a primeval forest of phlegm. She spent much of the ride on the phone complaining to an unknown listener about her son or boyfriend, I couldn't figure out which, who never washed his clothes. I paid little attention to the volume of her voice, since all my concentration was focused on trying to huddle into a small ball and get as far away as possible from the germs, but the bus driver eventually turned around to announce that neither he nor those in any other row found the conversation interesting. She apologized, and for the rest of the trip I heard only whispered details of the state of the dirty underwear. But we did exchange a few pleasant words. She was visiting Boston for the first time in 20 years, to see her nephew (I hope he wasn't the one with poor hygiene). And right as we pulled out of Port Authority to leave New York, and the driver announced that our first stop was Newton, she turned to me and asked:

"Is that a state?"

Did she actually say, "Is it in a different state?" and maybe I mis-heard? Or perhaps she was from a foreign country and, despite perfecting an American accent, never had time to learn all fifty names?

"No, it's a town," I answered. We both then stared into space for the next hour, and I realized that I had only a vague idea of where we were going, as well. All stretches of highway look much the same between New York and Boston. Things change so fast in this world, I wouldn't put it past someone to slip in a new state when I wasn't looking and hadn't yet picked up the day's New York Times.

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