On impact

I had a meeting downtown today, which meant I had to catch a bus and train. Bus rides are usually fine—I love the no. 17 bus because somehow it gives me a sense of orientation. If I see Bus No. 17 anywhere, I know I can find my way home. I never used to be so disoriented, never relied on a big grey and red growling rectangle for a semblance of security. So this morning I waited serenely for the bus. A couple approached, also intending to catch it. They were arguing—she thought he was cheating, he was wide eyed, protesting his innocence and quoting something his grandma had said. I got on the bus and paid my fare and made for a seat near the back. The woman headed for the same seat, but I got there first. The couple sat down behind me, and I heard her curse me because I’d taken the seat she wanted. The reference hurt, but it was the fury in her tone, loaded with all the stuff she needed to spill on someone that really got to me. I understood her rage. She was unhappy. Frustrated. Life wasn’t turning out the way she expected it to, or hoped it would. They continued to argue. We passed Stonestown. “I apologize,” she said, especially loudly. “You know I don’t have any bad intentions. I’m a very positive person.” She was speaking to him, but to redeem my day, I pretended those words were meant for me. We got to West Portal, and I waited for them to get off the bus, but she hung back until I stood up and moved into the aisle. I said softly to her, “I wish you hadn’t cursed me like that. You don’t know me.” About to protest, she broke off her, “I wasn’t…” to hear me out. “It hurt to hear you speak about me like that,” I said. “Women shouldn’t do that to other women. It gives men permission to call us whatever they want.” I saw something change in her eyes. We got off the bus, and she said, “I apologize. I’m so sorry. I didn’t have any bad intentions.”

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