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.