Wrung Out

Sometimes I have to wait when catch the bus home after 9 or so. But the other night, an orange 4 was sighing to a halt in front of me within a few minutes — and I was thankful: after a long day, I felt like a dirty mop. I’d fought against the clock, but it had won – and now it was dark. Sinking into a middle-facing seat, I plugged into my radio. I watched stops go by one by one. Parks, streetlights, families, carts – all seemingly wandering in the night. I closed my eyes to save strength to get me home.

Somewhere in Hollywood I became aware of some antagonistic behavior in the back of the bus. A young guy whose black pleather jacket and fluffy soft curls were so early 80s Brooklyn was blurting profanities at some other guys. The other guys disembarked at the next rail connection stop, muttering inaudible pities. That’s when I noticed the verbally abusive hipster’s face was streaked with tears.

“Buy, that guy…,” he said quietly between choking sobs. “He tried to…” He was clinging to something that wasn’t making any sense. His friend in a backwards Dodgers-blue hat was trying to calm him but it wasn’t helping. There was a subtle tension. We were sharing this guy’s bad trip across town. I scanned the faces of other passengers – only some seemed aware of it.

Then I heard the unmistakable sound of thick liquid sloshing onto a hard surface. An older man in a side-facing seat in the back reached up to open a window. The young hipster was slumped over in the seat in front of him, his white shirt now stained with amber droplets. His friend put an arm around him.

My stomach flinched in empathy: the weakness, vulnerability and pain in vomiting usually makes me cry too. When a girl on my school bus in elementary threw up, we stopped for a few minutes while the driver covered it up. But tonight, the 4 kept rolling. My stop was next.

*Cross posted on Rapid Transit District, which chronicles observations and experiences taking transit in Los Angeles.

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