Today ‘Beatnik Grandpa’ got on the bus, his black cap pulled low and Ray Bans glasses covered his eyes. A small beard adorned his chin, kept neat and trimmed. He had cord trousers on in a tan colour, the cuffs folded up at the bottom revealing plaid patterned socks tucked into highly polished shoes. A slim belt was tucked into the loops at the top of his trousers along with red braces. Everything he did was in rhythm as though any moment he could start clicking his fingers in time to his silent beat.
Next to him was a pastiche of a girl. She wore a rock and roll jacket, not leather but a good look-a-like. A bag with golden chain slipped on to her shoulder, a quilted pouch made to look designer. Her blonde hair was pinned up into a deliberately untidy bun with no disguise on the darker coloured roots. She chewed anxiously on a fingernail bringing attention to the chipped nail polish. She isn’t as cool as she appears despite the latest fashion she’s wearing or the way she’s standing.
She had a store id card hanging on a lanyard around her neck and she treats it as though it’s a vip pass for a concert. When she steps on the bus her inner nature comes to the fore as she debates whether to go upstairs or stay down. By the time she’s decided the back seats are taken and you see something in her eyes before she steps daintily up the stairs.
A woman sits down on the bus pulling an overburdened shopping trolley with her. She slots it into the small space beside her only it doesn’t quite fit and a wheel remains in the aisle as a trip hazard not that she cares as despite the no eating on the bus rule she takes out a packet of crisps and begins munching away. Her grey hair is escaping from a hastily pinned in clip. There are purple butterflies on it that too, look as though they are trying to escape. She’s broad shouldered and the clothes she’s wearing don’t suit her frame. I feel sorry for her and guilty for judging her in equal measure.
I imagine that there is no-one waiting for her at home, she has no wedding ring on anyway and seems to wear her loneliness like a protective shield.
I smile at her and say hello as I move to sit across the aisle from her. She nods but ignores me for the entire journey. I tell myself I tried but I know I didn’t. I could have asked her name, asked for some details of her life, offer up my own.
I know that she is just a representation of all the people I could have reached out to and never did. Of the lonely people that live and breathe beside us that we choose not to notice. I know this because sometimes I join them.