We’ll take you to work today…
My loving and exhausted wife said from under the warm folds of the bed. The long anticipated first day of Spring break had come for her, and the older one. Not the Saturday, but the real first day, Monday. Days when kids and teachers, people on vacation get the fullness of not having to go anywhere.
I told her.
At this point, it’ll be easier if we don’t rush the boys and I can still bus it in.
Out of fairness, on the days I have to work and she does not, she will take me in the van to allow for more time as a family. Plus it gets her and the kids out of the house and on with their day.
But on the first real day of vacation, I could tell the morning called for sitting around under the covers, watching morning cartoons with endless cereal.
For the past decade, I have taken the bus. Not always the same one, but generally one that goes downtown. I am used to its patterns. I have its tricks mastered. So, when the time came for the older one to start school where I worked, it was easier than I thought it would be teaching him how to ride.
Where to sit.
Who to talk to.
Who to avoid.
How to slip past people paying in change while we flash our card.
This morning was grey. I could tell by the emptiness of the stop, and the smoldering cigarette butt, I had just missed one. I resigned myself to getting on the bench in the ¾ shelter, and looking up the hill to wait for the lights of bus sign rolling to a stop at the top.
When he is with me, he makes the best use of this time by exploring the bushes, or getting his “running energy” out by dropping his bag and running up the hill to the last tree on the left. This is where the driveway for Walgreen’s starts, and where I have drawn up the invisible boundary. It has seemed that each day he could make it to the top faster as his legs started to get longer, and his pants shorter.
The bus rolled to a noisy stop in front of me, and the four or five others that had joined me in the wait shuffled in line. As I boarded I took the usual front section of seats among the cast of regular commuters. Suddenly, realizing that I had not planned on not having him with me, I dug through my bag filled with papers, and nick-knacks for my mp3 player. Music is the way most normal people avoided the ride in. The escape from an inevitable day of work ahead. I greedily jammed the ever-inefficient ear buds in and hit the buttons to start a stream of music, I had not heard or updated for several months.
Within seconds, it went dead.
Without need, I never recharged it.
We rose over the train yard. I looked out over the rows of tracks and saw the massive saddle trucks hoisting trailer containers from truck to train beds. This is always one of the major discussion points between us. Where are they going? What are they carrying? How can I get to drive one of those?
I looked at my fellow commuters.
There was the young woman who always was reading the bible. Every day. She glistened with sweat as she read silently to herself. There is the old man, still going to work everyday, in an animated discussion with the young guy with blue died hair. They often are picked up at the same stop, but get off at different ones.
They never say goodbye to each other.
Is that his dad? He would often ask me.
I don’t know. I would say hoping secretly that they would not here this question. But now, I wondered too, who were they?
My wife opened the package of material from her school with an eager nervousness. Even if he were accepted, even with her tuition break, we would never be able to afford this education for him.
He’s in. She said below her breath. We did not want him to know just yet. It was still a long way off in toddler time.
And the money? I asked.
Just hold on. She scolded as she riffled through page after page.
Wow. She said.
I looked over what she handed me. It suddenly became more financially possible. We could swing it. He would be able to go to her school, get one of the best educations money could buy.
She could take him to school every day.
After reaching the river and crossing the long bridge the bus started to snake its way through the streets downtown. The young woman got off at her usual stop, bible stored away in her handbag. I noticed she was wearing scrubs.
My ear buds started to hurt, and I suddenly realized the stupidity of wearing them without and benefit of music.
I silently counted the turns. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.
For two years.
I have ridden the bus with him for two years. To school mostly. But for a while, back home as well. He would often be worn out at the end of his extended day. Tired. Cranky. I would feel his little body start to slump down on my lap, as the swaying of the bus lulled him to sleep.
Where’s your bus buddy?
The question jarred my back inside the bus. It was one of the kindly older women that got on downtown every day. She would usually ask him about school, or his backpack.
Spring break. I replied with mocking relief.
Oh yes. She said. I had forgotten that was this week. Well, that’s nice for you anyhow, to get a break…
Yes. I said.
I wanted to tell her how much I’d missed him. I wanted to tell her how lonely I was at that moment.
But I didn’t. I almost missed the stop for the train as he was not there to pull the string.
And I realized that next year, I would meld back in to become just another commuter for others to guess about.