Waiting For a Bus

 

Waiting For the Bus

He drew his coat collar in closer. He blew a moment’s worth of warmth into his scarf before the cold wind whipped through him again. He hurried as he knew the bus stop with the protective plastic enclosure was in the next block. It was cold, with light flurries floating in the night air adding just enough magic to make it feel he was in a movie.

As he walked the quiet street, passing only a few people and seeing only a few taxis and cars, he imagined himself as a character in a movie. Maybe an action movie. Yeah, he’d take a cab and end up embroiled in an exciting car chase. Nah. A crime drama suited his mood better, starting with breaking up a robbery in progress at the local bodega. Hmmm. Nope. He didn’t feel up to any car chase excitement or possible violence to his person.

He could see the dim lights and garish signage of the bus stop just ahead. As he approached, he noticed someone sitting on the bench bundled in a puffy coat huddled over an ereader. He noticed the rugged but small boots. A woman, with dark hair curling out from underneath her knit hat. She glanced up as he neared and he was met with the clearest blue eyes he had ever seen. They reminded him of his favorite Crayola crayon, “Robin’s Egg Blue.” Then she smiled. A slightly crooked, bright, beautiful smile. He reflexively smiled back, hoping for less of a Goofy grin and more of a Cary Grant cool smirk. In the movie reel in his head, he was fresh off a crime caper and was heading into the requisite romantic scene.

Except he didn’t know his lines. This was his big break. The meet-cute. The part where they would exchange witty banter and saunter off in the fog together from here to eternity. He tried to rummage through his brain for a good opener, but could only think of B-movie cheesy pick-up lines. What would Bogart have said? He hoped his silence would come off as a stoic Gary Cooper but feared his sneering smirk and staring gaze was more of a creepy Peter Lorre.

OK. He needed to get a grip. This was not the Golden Age of cinema. This was real life with all its grit and glory and discomfort and exhilaration. He was just a guy waiting for a bus. And she was just a girl waiting for a bus. No big deal. She was a beauty though, he thought as he surreptitiously glanced her way again. Could he be happy with himself if he passed up this chance at real magic?

He took his hands out of his pockets to check his watch and as he did, a little notepad fell out. He didn’t realize until he saw her reaching that it had fallen open, face-up. Before he could move, she had picked it up and had glanced at the page in front of her.

“Poetry?” she asked with a musical, husky voice that felt like warm caramel to his ears and she looked up at him with those eyes. “Yours?”
“Uh, yeah,” he replied, pleased to force some sound from his throat.
“Are you a writer?” she asked.
“Sort of. A hobby. I’m a computer programmer,” he answered. “Mostly web stuff. And some games.”
“I write too. Well, I’m in advertising in my real life but I write songs,” she said. And smiled up at him.
“Do you sing?” he asked as he moved to sit on the bench near her.
“Not really, but a friend of mine sometimes throws my songs in her sets at a bar near here.”
“Has anyone recorded your stuff?” he asked.
“Nah. I really just do it for fun. Not too serious at this point.” She handed him his notebook. “Do you have stuff published?”
“Well, uh, yeah, actually,” he stumbled, wondering why he was suddenly nervous. Would she think it pansy of him to have published books of poetry? And if so, why did he care? She was cute and he wanted to feel macho, that’s why, he reasoned.
He cleared his throat and opted for truth and optimism. “I’ve had two books of poems published and I’m working on my first full-length novel.”

He waited to hear disapproval or at least detect disinterest just like when he talked about writing with his family or his coworkers. He was pleasantly surprised to find neither. She seemed to almost bubble with excitement. Like Carole Lombard or Claudette Colbert.

Except she was better. She was real. In Technicolor. He realized how cold he was after he saw her shivering. Checking his watch, he noticed the bus was late. He asked if maybe she’d like to join him for a drink at her friend’s bar. She said sure. It made him feel like a matinee idol, walking a quiet city street on a snowy night with a beautiful woman. The night was full of promise.

They could not stop finding things to talk about, laugh about. With each moment, he felt warmer. In his head, the movie would end as they left the cold behind, walked into the smoky bar together with the musical score a cool jazz.

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Plaid Thoughts

dagboek_voorkant

Plaid Thoughts

She opened her little plaid journal and positioned her pen carefully. This had fast become one of the favorite parts of her day. A brand new page lay blank in wait for her imagination. She could do and be anything in just a few words! Drawing, writing, doodling. Collecting clippings that she found interesting. The journal had become her friend, a repository for her most private thoughts. It was of course to mean so much more later.

She felt a whole world of her own making could be conveyed if she could just figure out what her inner voice had to say. It spoke to her all the time; would it speak to others as well?

She sighed, shifted in her chair, leaned her elbows on the desk and began to write.

She wrote about what she saw, how she felt. She wrote things she hoped to see, hoped to someday feel. Since she was so young, she knew people might not take her seriously. After all, who would want to read the musings of a teenage girl?

Big thoughts about life and love and little thoughts about clothes and hairstyles all found their way into the book. She grew. And grew. Her body, her mind, her imagination. She felt she would outgrow the confines of her small space if not for her journal. Somehow some paper and ink kept her grounded; reminding her of what she felt mattered. Her writing touched on a newfound interest in boys as well as more philosophical matters like the good and evil she saw in the world. She had dreams of her stories being published. She wrote about things and people she knew; cleverly changing names so as not to risk anyone thinking her work too personal. From the real in all its grit came some beauty in fantasy.

After filling up many pages, she began to look them over, making subtle changes in case someone someday did indeed decide her thoughts were indeed fit for public consumption. She crinkled her nose in disgust at some sections, laughed aloud at others, felt embarrassed at some passages, elated that her imagination had shown through it all.

The tenor of her writing changed over time. The darkness that had remained a distant threat for so long was edging closer to her world. She could find solace in her plaid notebook for a short while but could only hold evil at bay for so long. Before the end, she wrote as any teen would, of making friends, loving boys, arguing with mothers, finding no wrong with fathers. She wrote of the good that she saw every day even as things were falling apart all around her. She wrote as though she was pressed for time to get out all her dreams and thoughts quickly before she forgot them or before she was forgotten.

She was not forgotten. Her journal was discovered, shared. As with any plaid pattern, such as the one of her notebook, the lines of several people’s lives and experiences intersected and meshed and coordinated to form a patterned story of hope amidst horror. Her story has been shared with the world so broadly that children hearing of her think of her as a character, not a real person. But look closely at some of the photographs. She was awkward but beautiful. Read carefully. She was young but intuitively adroit at expression and description.

I was recently given a small plaid notebook from someone who doesn’t know how Anne Frank touched me as a child. Reading thoughts so similar to my own from someone who existed thirty years before I was born was a revelation. Maybe I felt a connection because I was an awkward youth. Maybe it was the odd fact that stuck with me that she and I share a birthday. Whatever sparked my interest in her and her writing, I learned as a youngster that storytelling was important. I use my notebook to take notes for future stories and to jot down quotes I like. We can all find some means of expression no matter what the swirling activity of the world exists around us. Like Anne, I want to be hopeful and share my thoughts and dreams instead of being brought down by darkness.

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Holding

Holding

Cold turning warmer
Hands clasping, grasping
Thoughts turning faster
From despair to feather-light hope

Time has no matter
Feelings, memories abide no schedule
In quiet, calm cuts through mire
A soul in trouble looks to words, colors

Feelings replace thought
Giving form to hope
Time moves forward to face anew
Or aside to make way for old

Hands holding tightly
Bind now to here
Easing fear
Together.

Quietly Bittersweet

They walked together quietly. Their breathing, the gravel crunching under their soles and the wind rustling through the grass in the field nearby provided the only sounds. The scene above was that of a sky colored in what looked to be the Crayola crayon entitled “Robin’s Egg Blue.” A few cirrus clouds and a small grove of trees at the edge of the field dotted the landscape. Some of the leaves were just beginning to change color as the wind was just beginning to have a crisp bite of the fall to come.

She reached for his hand. He gently accepted and held hers in return. They continued to walk, each in their own world of thoughts and memories. He was thinking of their son’s Little League game where he got a triple, got a runner out at first, and couldn’t help his youthful exuberance and smiled and waved to him. She was thinking of their son’s little face looking up at her while nursing. How he would grasp and pull at her hair while she felt the tugging at her breast. She could feel that familiar tingle even now, walking down a dirt road, almost twenty years later.

They had driven their boy to school and helped him unpack some of his boxes. She wanted to make his bed, arrange towels, put up pictures. Her husband had to gently pry her away from the boxes, reminding her that a boy in college could probably figure out his own system of organizing his things. She joked that that’s what she was afraid of, but her son looked at her and saw the joke was a shallow one. He asked her for some help in hanging posters and putting up pictures. He let her make his bed. He said he would put the other stuff away after they left. They all did much better at lunch, laughing and relaxing over food, an almost comfortable routine of a family meal, with just a hint of the spectre of separation looming.

As they had driven home alone, just the two of them, they had filled their time with talking, music, anything to try to shake the feeling they had left a piece of them behind. Once they had gotten home, it was far too quiet, with their daughter visiting friends and their son now away at school. So they decided to take a walk.

They had walked together a lot when they had first been married. Somehow over the years, simple quiet walks had gone by the wayside. Their time had been full. Full of noise, toys, laundry, sports, schools, driving, errands, lessons, work. They had been warned they would feel empty when their children left. Somehow this was not the case. They knew they’d miss the day-to-day view of their son’s face and voice and presence, but they were so proud of what he had accomplished so far, they could not but help being happy he was exactly where he wanted to be. Not many people could say that. He had overcome many obstacles and worried to get to college and there he was!

The last view of him as they drove away reminded her of how she felt when she waved to him on his first day on the bus going to kindergarten. They would face another farewell next year with their daughter and that would be its own bittersweet milestone. But for now she would walk with her husband, holding hands, navigating the rough road together.

No Color Except Behind Closed Eyes

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gravelly snow
grey streaked skies
bleary, red-eyed
no beaming smiles, lips grimacing
grey-green skin blends with grey-brown hibernating grass
no glowing skin exposed
to the sun
all covered up in sweaters
and scarves and gloves
nothing left open to chance in the cold
cars all have salty brown patina, same color on ground and sky

colorless days make us thankful for long nights
where behind closed eyes colors explode like
shards of light, warming all the way
up through the fingertips
skin making warmth like swirls of writhing colors
carries us to the next day
like a memory of a summer’s night