The Bus Rider

Pink suit, pale lady


-            Damn, just look at the time; I’m going to be late if that old lady doesn’t hurry up.  Could she move slower? For God’s sake, stop talking! I think she’s paying in nickels; this is going to take forever!  No wonder she can’t find the right change, that crummy purse must be a thousand years old. Ragged jacket, dirty dress, even that sleeve is ripped. Stockings torn.  Her hair is such a mess that her head looks crooked. What color is that anyway? I wonder if she even knows where this bus is going? Next thing she will fall and none of us will get to work at all.  I’d better slide next to the aisle; she probably smells and I can’t go to the office stinking like garbage.  Why didn’t she just stay home…if she even has a home…that’s it, homeless... homeless bus lady...that's a laugh!  Hey, this is rush hour, come on! 

-            Boy, that must be hard, being that old and having to ride the bus. She must know the driver; they keep talking.  That pink suit is a little tired, but I bet she once wore it with pride. Still does. Worn out leather purse, probably expensive.... in 1960. The only reason she would wear a heavy wool suit like that on a day like this, is that it must be her only suit.  She must be going somewhere important.  Sure, she’s wearing stockings and she put on pink lipstick too.  Kind of missed her mouth.  What is going on with her hair? Oh, it’s a wig… she is wearing an old wig that someone ruined with hot curlers.  She is counting out the money carefully, like she doesn’t have much, but I think once she did.  Now she’s dressed up for church or the Welfare line.  I'll move by the window, so there is space for her to sit.  Proud woman near the end of her life, kind of left over, just like the cloths she is wearing.  

-            What is the delay up there?  Need to get going. Oh, a senior getting on the bus; no spring chicken, but still tough; look at her arguing over the fare.  Old suit, seen better days.  Huh, that is a wig.  Is she a patient?  Her hands are thin and her arms bruised.  She has too much lipstick to tell for sure, but around her eyes, she is pale, like she is anemic. There is a ripple, a bulge at the base of her neck on the right … I bet that is an IV… a Mediport … sure, she is a cancer patient, on chemo.  Yellow fingers … is she a smoker?  Lung cancer?  Lung Cancer patient on chemo?  Probably metastatic.  She is moving carefully, but fairly well, not in pain, which is good. She doesn’t look too thin, so she is eating.  That’s good, too. It must be hard to be sick and getting treatment and have to take the public bus on a hot summer day.   Well, at least we are going to the same place, so I can help if she wants.  Memorial Hospital; 10 blocks.

-            Oh, there she is. “Mom!”


As published in Sunrise Rounds.


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