I live in a small town on the shores of Lake Ontario. I’ve been here ever since my husband died, nearly ten years ago. I can’t say that I like to be a widow, but I do like my single hood. I suppose I’ve grown more and more independent, and yes, even set in my ways.
I take the bus into the larger city to the west about once a week. Sometimes I have a reason to travel, say, for a doctor’s appointment or to shop the sales. More often, I have no excuse to ride, except to observe, and occasionally meet people.
I enjoy studying people on the bus. I go home and write about them. Haven’t published anything yet, but who knows? It can still happen, even though I’m seventy-three and getting older by the minute, it seems.
The fellow with the pink hair band! Now that was a character. I quite liked talking with him.
Yesterday I rode the bus again. There was a young lady, about twenty, sitting in the first seat, across from the bus driver, and close to the window. She seemed to shrink against the seat, and she didn’t look out the window as I approached. She stared straight ahead,
as I settled down beside her.
She had short hair, cut at an angle on one side, so that it hid part of her face. The other side was shaved. It was black and a bright auburn on the ends. Rather pretty, I thought, and I found myself wishing, not for the first time, that I was younger, so that I, too, might
experiment with bright hair colours.
She shifted away even more, if that were possible, as I sat down.
I set my white leather purse down on the floor in front of me, and leaned back in the soft blue cushion of the seat.
The girl coughed, bringing up her arm so that she wouldn’t spread germs. I liked that. It showed that she had some manners. A rare thing these days.
As the bus lurched forward, and several people stood to be ready for the next stop, I
leaned toward the girl and said, “My name is Sonya. I haven’t seen you on this bus before.”
The girl turned to stare at me. Her wide mouth worked a bit, before she replied, “I just moved here from up north.” She had large grey eyes, an unusual smoky colour that made her hair colour choice fitting.
“Oh, then you won’t have got used to the crowds yet, then.”
“No – no not yet.”
“Do you live in P—-?” I asked, naming the town where I live.
“Yes, I do. On Dorcas Street.”
“Oh, that is a lovely area. You must have an apartment then.” I know the town well enough to picture the shady tree lined street and the old brick houses that have been converted into apartments.
“Yes, I have a bedsit. But it’s large enough for me.”
“Of course, dear.”
We rode in companionable silence for a couple of minutes. The young lady was no longer leaning so hard into the window side.
“I might get a cat,” she said, all at once.
“Oh, that would be nice. There’s always a cat needs a home.”
“Yes, and I won’t get a kitten, but a full grown cat. Like you said, cats need a home.”
“Good for you. And what is your name, dear?”
“What a lovely name.”
“Except no one pronounces it right or spells it properly, you know.”
“I am sorry to hear that, Michaela,” I said, careful to say it right.
“And I got sick of my boyfriend back home always calling me ” Michael.””
“And no wonder. That would be less than respectful, if you didn’t wish to be called that.”
“Exactly, which is part of the reason that I moved down south. Just to get away, from him and from my family too.”
The riders who had stood up moved forward to the doors as the bus pulled up to the next stop. They left and a few more people got on. The bus pulled away from the curb.
I noticed that Michaela studied each person as they moved to find seats. She looked from under her side swept hair, head down and not looking directly at anyone.
“Are you afraid about something that happened before you left?”
She looked at me, her mouth a little “o” of surprise.
“Well, yes, I am worried that they’ll find me and make me come home. I had to get away before something worse happened.”
This last statement piqued my interest. I realized that I must be careful how I broached this subject.
“Then things didn’t go well between the two of you?”
“Not at all. We had a big fight when I told him I needed some time away. He got mad.”
“Oh, my. I do hope it didn’t get physical.”
The bus lurched as it pulled onto the highway. It wouldn’t be long until it arrived in P—-.
She glanced at me, through her hair.
“Well, it did, sort of. I – I had to defend myself. And I did, ” she went on. The words came then, in a torrent.
“I was at home. Mum and Dad were out in the barn, tending to the dairy cows. He came into the house, and started to argue. I ran into the kitchen, just to get away from him. And he wouldn’t stop talking to me. He yelled at me.”
She hesitated a moment.
“I hate it when people yell. I wanted him to stop. I didn’t mean to hurt him. I just wanted him to be quiet. To go away.”
I nodded, and Michaela said, “I grabbed the knife on the counter. I’d been planning to make a sandwich when he walked in.
“I tried to make him be quiet. Mum and Dad came in then, and told me I had to get away, real quick. They took care of everything, you know. “
I patted the girl’s hand where it lay, clenched in her lap.
“And so you came south,” I said.
“Yes, and I’m never going back there, ever!”
She looked at me, with those smoky grey eyes. No tears, only clarity.
“Well, this is my stop, ” I said, as the bus slowed and pulled in. “You carry on and make a life for yourself here, ” I told her.
She smiled at me then, as I picked up my purse and got to my feet.
“Thank you,” she said. “Thank you for listening.”
I smiled and left the bus.
As I walked down the street, I pondered the conversation.
How little we know of others and their troubles, their plans and their secrets.