THE NUMBER NINE BUS
I rode my bike up to the bus stop and parked it neatly next to the trash bin and sat myself down on the blue metal bench. Checking my watch, I saw it was ten of six pm.
Okay then, by my calculations, the Number Nine should be here at 6:10 pm. I have twenty minutes to wait. I can live with that.
Then, I would mount my bike on the cow-catcher at the front of the bus and be mercifully whisked out of the heat and onto my shopping errand.
Home in time to watch the new Netflix movie and in bed at a decent hour.
I patted my pocket. There were several carefully placed dollar bills and quarters there in case any of the bills stuck in the bus changer. Patiently, I waited and pulled out my IPod and stuck in my ear buds for music.
Through my Raybans I saw them walking across the street, coming my way.
Oh, no. A guy and a girl? Yes, definitely a girl, she’s shorter. Little hard to tell with all the stuff they’re carrying.
Eventually they made it to the bus stop and I looked away into middle distance, not wanting to be part of their space. Sensing my discomfort, the girl sat down with her bag between us and the guy stood up. They were talking to each other but I couldn’t hear with the ear buds.
He said something to me and I had to pull the buds out.
“…bus? The number nine bus?”
“Yes, yes. This is the number nine bus stop. It should be here any minute.” I said helpfully. I looked at my watch. As a matter of fact, it really should have already been here, it was 6:10pm.
“…you got your bracelet, from New Mexico?” The girl was speaking at me.
“No, not New Mexico,” I replied and kept staring off to the right, away from them.
“….mine it up in the hills there,” she was saying to me. I nodded my head, the buds back in place.
My natural nosiness took over and I looked at them. Both about twenty, they were a complete rag-tag band of assorted styles, genres, mixed clothing, backpacks, bags, hats, jewelry, tats and body piercing everywhere. He was kind of shaky and red in the face.
Is he kicking? Heroin? I thought to myself. Hard to say exactly.
I had to look carefully, there was a plastic baby doll leg pinned to the side of his pack. What was most noticeable was the big green ring he had in his nose. She had nose rings too, but smaller.
I am being kind of an ass, I thought, they’re just kids.
“The bus should be along any minute now. I think maybe it’s running late,” I volunteered.
“Oh, that always happens to us,” she told me and got up and gave the guy a long extended hug.
True love. I thought. Of course, poor and in love.
She came back and sat down again. I got up and stared down the street searching desperately for that bus.
“You guys looking for a shelter ’cause there’s a Salvation Army close by…”
“No, no, we have a place to go. We’re not really hobos…my husband and I just dress like this.”
She seemed very calm with their situation. Pretty face under all the hat, feather and jewelry. He was off staring for the bus too.
“I’m from Spokane,” she volunteered. “Did you know that Spokane and Fresno are the same size? Only Spokane has more people.” This girl seemed desperate to engage me in conversation for whatever reason.
“More rain too I’ll bet,” I ventured.
“Oh, lots more rain but crazy hot this time of year. You wouldn’t believe how hot and electrical storms, lots of electrical storms.”
“Oh yeah, tons of fires, crazy.” She pulled and picked at her blond hair with bright orange polish fingernails. She wasn’t really looking at me but she didn’t seem bothered by me either.
“How are the buses in Spokane?”
“They are great! Every fifteen minutes and later every half hour,” she nodded her head with assurance.
“Well, the buses in Fresno suck,” I told her looking at my watch again. It was now almost 6:30pm.
Where the hell it that bus? The mall is going to be closed. I have skin products to buy. Damn it! I need my Clinique.
“We’re going to his Dad’s and seeing about staying the night.” She didn’t seem sure about that.
“Where does he live?”
“Riverpark area,” the guy answered. He had put his backpack down. He suddenly jumped and started hitting the bag. Something flew out and landed. They both studied the ground.
“That’s the most beautiful beetle I ever saw,” she was staring at the little grey thing on the sidewalk.
Yeah, as long as it isn’t crawling around in your backpack.
“Don’t kill it,” she said to him. He was on the ground screwing with the bug, no doubt upset it had frightened him.
“I just don’t know about this bus,” I told them. “It should have been here by now. Don’t know if it’s Saturday schedule or what.” The guy looked concerned.
“Where you going again?” I directed my question to him.
“Riverpark down Blackstone. I remember ‘cause I lived there since I was two.”
I nodded and found the location on my IPod. “This it?” He bent over to look at the phone map but didn’t get too close.
“Yeah, that’s the place.”
“That’s a beautiful ring!” she was looking at my white pearl and malachite pinkie ring. I knew she wanted to touch it but was careful to keep her hands to herself.
“His father is from Fresno?” I asked her.
“Well, in that case, I would probably lose the nose rings for a few days.”
She got a disturbed look on her face, frowned and crossed her arms over her chest. It was then I noticed the healed cutting scars up and down her forearm. This girl clearly had some back story. And, probably not happy .
“You know,” she had put some thought in this, “Jesus Christ was persecuted and he wore clothes just like this. We dress like this so we will be persecuted too and still carry the message.”
“Ah,” I replied.
“I don’t change myself to please other people, only to please myself,” she concluded with some finality.
How about pleasing someone enough to get a place to sleep for the night? I didn’t say anything else, her mind seemed made up.
“I don’t know about this bus,” I said again. It was ten of seven now.
The girl disappeared in to the car wash and came back.
“The Mexican guy says no more buses,” she told us.
Damn it to hell, the Mall is going to close and I’m never going to get my stuff! I almost stamped my feet in frustration.
I walked over to my bike. Maybe I could ride there and back before it got dark.
“Perhaps if you hitch a ride with a truck they can get you to Blackstone,” I ventured.
They weren’t really listening to me anymore.
“I’m thirsty,” she was telling him. He was practically gyrating in place trying to decide what to do.
Oh, well. Guess they’ll just have to take that whole 60’s Love Child, meets Fresno Red Neck and gets ink, rings, Jesus and hits the road becoming homeless on unknown drugs and figure it out.
I got back on my bike and rode toward the mall.