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the best of you i like more than you think

November 11, 2009

Riding the 21 home with J, we’re sharing headphones, listening to Santigold.  The bus is crowded, and we are tired.  J closes her eyes. 

At the bottom of Alamo Square the bus stops to let someone off.  We are absorbed, she tries to remind me of the thing I said at a party that I wasn’t even at.  Must have been someone else she says.  Funny how my presence interjects itself when I’m not watching. 

The bus has been stopped a long time.  J notices before I do.  All this time a man has been struggling to get out of the first seat.  He is not doing alright.  Drugs or AIDS or something else.  Something bad.  I’m watching this.  Everyone is watching in a kind of secretive way.  But I’m watching J too, because I have a feeling about J.  I see the hesitation make a decision, and she’s up.   

She walks up and asks him, simple as anything, if he needs help.  He does.  The bus has been stopped forever.  If we were ever going anywhere we are not going there now.  It’s just J, and this man, and she’s holding his elbow and they are inching forward.  It looks impossible.  He is never going to be able to get off, and how could he be out alone, and how will he get home?   I want to help her, and I get up and stand frozen in front of my seat like someone on the deck of a sinking ship.  I don’t move and none of us move, and J and her charge are the only ones who make it off alive.

When he is off the bus and finally enveloped by the dark, J returns to her seat, and all I can do is tell her that that was humane, and all she does is put out her hand for the headphone, and we are listening to Santigold again, and the bus lumbers up the hill. 

A person could avoid busses forever so as not to have to know themselves like this.  I might have been ashamed, but what I really felt was lucky, not to be healthy, which would come later, but just to have a friend like her.

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