Scene (Seen) From the Bus
S2 Bus, Washington DC, Toward Silver Spring
Distracted from my book for a moment, I looked up, and realized we had been sitting in traffic for several minutes. The road was gridlocked as far as I could see.
“Are we stopped? Where are we?” A man sitting near the front of the bus asked out loud to no one in particular. Sunglasses shaded his eyes and a service dog was curled at his feet.
A man sitting to his left looked around the silent bus, then answered, “Yup, traffic.”
“Oh, that’s too bad.” The man paused before inquiring further. “Can you see why?”
“It always gets this way, during the tennis tournament,” the other man went on. He spoke hesitantly as if feeling out the interest of his audience.
He was bald in an awkward way, his head wasn’t very attractive and his eyes bulged unnaturally. He was actually almost frightening to look at straight on. But the other man listened intently.
“Tennis tournament? Here?” The blind man asked. He sat facing the window that looked out on the tournament grounds, unseen to him.
“Oh, yes, a qualifier for the U.S. Open, Andre Agassi played here last year. Didn’t you hear?”
“You don’t say? Well isn’t that something. And it’s happening now?” He was hungry for the information, for a connection, to see what everyone else could.
The other man took the hint and happily became his eyes. “Yes, now. The parking lot is so full, and it just kills the traffic on this road about this time, when everyone is trying to leave. Yup, there they are, huge parking lots, all full here,” he paused, gathering more material through the window. “And big white tents, several of them. That’s where the matches are played, under these tents. And people have to park way out and then walk all the way here.”
“They play tennis under tents? Huh, isn’t that something.” The blind man seemed to recap to himself, filing away the scene he heard about somewhere in his brain.
The bald man moved over so he was sitting beside the blind man. “Well, now it looks like we’re moving finally. What’s your stop?”
“Oh yeah? You live on Rittenhouse? Me too!”
“Well, no, I live a few blocks down, on Somerset.”
“Oh, Somerset, so you live near Stewart House?”
“Stewart house? No? I don’t know. What is it?”
“Oh, it’s a safehouse, a halfway house for addicts. You didn’t know it was there? It’s just on the corner of Somerset. You sure you don’t know it?”
“I don’t know. I don’t hear anything from it.”
“Well, I’ll point it out to you, I have to walk that way anyway. Here, our stop’s coming up.” The bald man pulled the bus cord. The digital sign at the front of the bus read Rittenhouse Street.
The blind man smiled and stood up when the bus stopped and lowered to the ground, urging his dog to lead the way. The bald man rushed off before him and stood waiting on the sidewalk.
I watched through the window as he stooped down to pet the blind man’s dog before waving goodbye to the driver.