Buses and mass transit systems have a unique way of collecting an odd assortment of strange people. Sometimes this was UNIX’s main reason for taking the bus. She had a perfectly acceptable yellow Volkswagen van that could get her from place to place and the gas was not very expensive but she hated to drive and she somehow loved the capricious encounters happening on the bus. The van was for going to the mountains, the beach or the rare visit back to see her family. Those trips seemed so far away for her. Well to put it another way, she liked chance encounters in general but lately she had become more of a hermit and these chance encounters were just that. She had a little weathered notebook where she would write down her recollection of these encounters mostly for her enjoyment. Actually, it was totally for her enjoyment. She would add some crazy little sketches to help remember them and she thought someday she would gather them together and somebody might want to read them. She especially enjoyed the drawing part of it. She was not necessarily great at it but the sketches were usually funny and it pleased her to look at them.
She sat on the bus headed across town and watched as the dry autumn leaves swirled in the suddenly gusty wind. She sat quietly and started to make a sketch of Seth and his dog. Her long brown hair curled around her lips as she tried to remember what Seth looked like. She certainly remembered the dog with it’s ,warm brown eyes. It was funny to her that she could not remember the dog’s name but she could remember Seth’s name. (Both names were on the tag) She could also sketch the dog from memory. She had little recollection of Seth so when she sketched them both she sketched the dog in detail and drew Seth as a cartoon The sketch amused her as she pushed her sketchbook back into her book bag as she looked out at the slowly fogging windows. She realized she had badly missed her bus stop. She was not alone on the bus, Across from her sat an older woman with a collection of bottles. It appeared she was taking them to the grocery store for the nickel refund. It looked like about four dollars-worth of bottles in her bag. The woman wore a deep grey threadbare coat. The sleeves on her old coat were tattered. She seemed a bit agitated as she drew little designs on the cloudy bus mirrors.
“Hi there” she said to the woman “she thought to herself I have to stop just talking to strangers one of these days. Then again, she had already committed to this conversation and continued. “Where are you headed with that fine collection of bottles?” She already knew the answer but she still pushed forward and repeated the same question. “Where are you headed with that fine collection of bottles”?
The woman looked at her with what she perceived as sardonic amusement and simply said, “I am looking for a modern-day Jesus and a bottle of cheap wine.”
“You know what sister on most days I am looking for the exact same thing. I do not care for wine all that much but I think I understand what you are looking for.” Unix shyly added.
The old woman chortled somewhat under her breath “You think you are so smart and understand what a lady of my means is looking for?”
“Yes, I think I do”, UNIX responded carefully. “On certain days I think I do. Here I got a simple little deal for you. It looks like you have about 40 bottles there and in my world that comes to about four dollars’ worth.” (In Oregon, the exact math would be 2 dollars) I’ll buy all those bottles from you for 10 dollars and I’ll take care of them for you.”
“That’s mighty nice of you young lady I would be foolish not to take you up on that offer.”
With that, UNIX shuffled through her purse, found ten one dollar bills, folded them, and put them into the old woman’s surprisingly warm hands. The old woman smiled just a bit and thanked her. “How can I thank you err ummm…I did not catch your name.”
“It doesn’t matter but if you find your modern-day personal Jesus it would make me very happy” as UNIX left the bus about a mile past her destination. “I am not all that religious myself however, who would not like finding that.”.
Unix decided to walk the last 18 blocks back to what she called home for now and for the most part she loved the walk and the suddenly crisper than normal autumn air. She loved the view of the city from the bluff in Sellwood. It was in the quiet part of town that overlooked a bird sanctuary. If you looked a little farther, you could see the rolling lights of the amusement park. The sight of the amusement park made her happy and calm. She remembered going to parks like this when she was a kid. It was usually just her father and her. Her father for some unexplained reason was a lover of amusement parks. She could almost smell the sickly sweet smell of cotton candy as she overlooked the bluff. With the help of a brief glimpse of the sun and a wonderful rigid crisp breeze, the water sparkled, a bright dazzling blue. This was, despite the fact that cold grey clouds gathered on the western ski-line. The city, with all its metal and noise sat in the foreground looking stunning. It appeared more metallic than it actually was. She took the long way home tonight savoring her lukewarm reflection. She was enjoying her first contact with a human being of any sorts for the last few weeks. She had become a conundrum of sorts at least to herself. Her life had become a short-term mess and she somehow rationalized that it was time to get out of this funk and get back to her basics and just meet people. It was not as if she could just turn on a switch but she was determined to do so. She would take the good with the bad.
She felt mired in a bog of banality for the first time in her young life. Having never been here before. She did not know exactly how to escape. She knew she had to dive in headfirst.
Throughout her childhood, she led a privileged existence. She was the that girl who got to go to the private schools and then ended up not following the rules and getting sent to public school. When that did not work out as planned. UNIX’s parents almost forced her into a military school. Moreover, her parents gave in to her and let her prove herself at another high school that she all of a sudden found to her liking. The school was small enough to provide structure but also perfectly big enough to afford her the freedom of being somewhat invisible. The quirky bird at school that was always in her own little world but whom would somehow get her artwork displayed in the school’s west wing. She readily admits she purposely flirted with the art teacher so that he would propose the idea to whom ever made that decision. However, she really did not care as all she wanted was for people to see her art and she felt proud every time she walked past her displayed work. Privately she thought that she didn’t need to do all her schoolwork. She could easily paint to make people happy.
She was somewhat disconnected from her parents as a constant in her life. Her parents had suddenly split while she was in her senior year at Portland State. It was mystery to her how two people whom had always been together had drifted apart. It saddened her more than she would let on to but she still despite what she considered large odds she survived and graduated with relative ease. She could somehow put these little episodes in her life into tiny little compartments. Well so her counselor said.
Her entire disconnect with her parents was a lot of her own doing. She would never tell them the truth. She told them she had a boyfriend and she was in a long-term relationship. When they came to visit the boyfriend was never there. She informed them she was doing great financially. However, when they visited, she usually had little food and on one visit, she actually had no heat as she did not have the money to fill the oil tank. She just told them that the furnace needed repair. Her parents had offered to help her and she always refused. Here parents let it up her to figure out.
She sat and thought for a few seconds. She thought about the woman on the bus. In a subtle way, it dawned on her that she would be that woman on the bus in thirty years or so. However, she did not see anything wrong with that. Neither did Lenny Bruce.