Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas

I took the bolt bus back from Portland. I had spent three days in the country, chopping wood, reading and being fed. I had sunk into a caloric lethargy and everything was great.
We had a hot tub and a dog and the sun and there was nothing to do. And I took the bolt bus back on Christmas eve. Everything was fine on the bus, that should go without saying. The driver handed out candy before we left and made little jokes that people even laughed at. As we pulled into Seattle he told us how he donated all his pay from November and December to the Seattle food bank and urged us to donate as well. It was a little grandiose but obviously from the heart and certainly fit in with the holiday. It was when I got into the city that things took a turn.

First there was the schizophrenic sitting on the light rail, doodling in the book. He was unobtrusive but stared at me ominously. I've lived here over a year but it still gets me sometimes, getting glared at. It was a city thing I guess, or anyways when you are in the city it is so much more obvious, not hidden away. Then out, on third, there was the kid (he looked like the boy in deliverance, the dueling banjo boy) selling night-owl tickets for a dollar. Some guys walked up and passively got him to get rid of a ticket for free,
"Night owl ticket for a dollar?"
"How about for free?"
The kid just stood there,
"Where's your holiday spirit?" this guy was holding a basketball and seemed pretty full of himself, "How about for free?"
The kid held out his hand the guy took the ticket. The kid was about to walk off when the guy turned around,
"Naw I already got one." and gave the ticket back.
"You want a ticket?"
"No thanks."
He walked off.
The guy with the basketball must have seen me. He walked over, right at me, the basketball held at his arm's length and my head's height.
"Wanna see a magic trick?"
"No man." I mumbled it, he must not have heard me.
"Magic trick, two dollars."
"Naw, naw."
He looked at me for a moment then walked away.

I got on the bus and went straight for the back. There was one other person on, near the front. A family got on as we were waiting. A woman trailing her daughter and a man behind them, father or boyfriend it wasn't clear. The mother was harried--they were toting a few bags--the man seemed despondent or out of it or tired or something. They sat down right next to me. The little girl wanted attention and was pulling it every way she could, the mother was giving her the little stifled yells that pent up mothers tend to give.
The mother said,
"I can't believe it..." not in the angry way, but in the genuinely awed, surprised way, "I can't believe it. I have to call my sister."
A second later she picked up her phone. The little girl was using wrapping paper like a trumpet or didgeridoo.
The man pulled out a bill, he was rolling it up over and over, folding it neatly over and over.
"Sister you would not believe what just happened. Okay, so I was going up to Everett to meet someone and when I was getting off the bus driver stopped me and said 'Here it looks like you need this' and handed me a little piece of paper."
The man had wrapped the bill into quarters and was chewing on it lightly over and over.
"And he said I couldn't look at it until I got off the bus and all the other riders were gone. Then I opened it up."
I never caught how much money she had gotten from the driver. The baby, strapped to her chest was looking at me. I don't want to make this story too cheesy, but the baby looked so sad, or maybe confused. It was not crying-sad but had that kind of look as if the baby knew what it was in for, the kind of shit it would have to go through for the rest of it's life.
The man rolled up another bill into a tube then crouched over and did a line off the bill. I thought the woman was still on the phone but then she started yelling at the trumpeting daughter to shut up. The man took out his phone and played some music.

They got off on Broadway, the man well ahead of the woman and the two kids.

I didn't know what to say or do. They were right there: three feet--five feet at the most-from me the entire time. The man never seemed ashamed of what he was doing, or even aware that it was strange or unusual or might have some impact on the kids. The whole ride I didn't see him speak to, even look at the woman or the kids, though they were undeniably together.

What could I have said or done? I knew literally nothing about them. Nothing I could have said in those few moments could have had an impact on any of them. Not only that but anything I could have said would have rebuffed, or considered patronizing, unwanted certainly.

It seemed like this all could have been on that show where they video tape bystander's reactions to morally questionable events put on by actors, except no grave faced host popped out to console me, congratulate me, question me, scold me after it all happened.

It was just ugly, complicated reality, reality which bites and runs before you can even see its full face and decide what to do. Reality which at times seems too cheesy to even come out as poor art (this was Christmas eve for christsake, who writes this crap?).

I got off the bus a few blocks later--not even a mile from where they must live--on the quiet dark street where I live. A man was outside lighting lights, lighting actual candles for Christmas. I saw him turn to me right as I passed by. Their house is always decorated for holidays, he must have wanted to say 'Merry Christmas' or something but he stayed silent. How could I have said anything and meant it after watching this? This little scene had literally no impact on me life. I witnessed it for five minutes or so I went on with my day, while the four of them are going to have go home to their awful, frustrated, drug ridden Christmas. How could I feel anything after watching these lives play out horribly before me?

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