She screamed at him at the bus kiosk. She called him a bum. A crazy old bum and that she didn’t want to spend any more of her precious god damned time with him. She threw a luggage tote against the side of the bus kiosk and walked away from the shriveled and shrinking gray haired man. He was stooped and defeated and wore it like a man might wear a fine suit.
She was old and thin and in possession of the wiles a younger woman might have had. She approached me after yelling loudly on the sidewalk at her good for nothing bum. She said to me sweetly and kindly, “How you doing sweetheart?”
“What,” I said.
“You want a cigarette,” she said and she rested her old chin on my shoulder.
“You have to be kidding me,” I said.
She lifted her chin from my shoulder.
“I have my own cigarettes. I’ll roll you one if you like,” she said.
“No. No thank you. I’m fine. Thanks,” I said.
She smiled at me and then her face went cross. She turned away from me and to another woman waiting for the bus. She had a conversation with that woman, eventually driving her away from the space she had been standing. I held my ground though. No crazy old woman was going to make me move. I was already pissed that it was hot out and it was morning and I had to go to work and do very little. I would not be moved by her mad ramblings.
She stood behind me and out of the corner of my eye I saw her drop to her knees and start bowing in the path of an even older woman. She bowed in praise as this older woman shuffled very delicately toward the train station. I looked over toward her old man companion and he was gathering his things. Well, thing rather, as he only had a sofa pillow to sit upon. He may have had a paper coffee cup as well. He stood from the bus kiosk seat and started his own very slow shuffle away from the scene.
My summer mad woman adjusted the red handkerchief covering her head and put a blue baseball cap over it. She was wrinkled. Wrinkles as deep as canyons. She looked like an old time football left out in the rain then left in the scorching desert. She retrieved her luggage tote and vanished around the corner. I sighed with relief and then cursed the lateness of the bus. Where the hell is this stupid bus to take me to stupid work where I’ll sit in my cubicle and pretend to do something of meaning and substance?
Finally. The bus.
I boarded and found my way to the back and sat down. I looked at the clock and silently cursed the hot weather and the slowness of the other people boarding. Then I saw it. The luggage tote found its way onto the bus and my mad summer woman appeared. Her old, worthless bum companion, was now staggering across the street, headed for a different bus kiosk it seemed, someplace out of the hot morning sun.
She sat near the front of the bus and started going through her bag, finding St. Patrick ’s Day green beads with a Bud Lite advertisement medallion hanging from it. She resisted her urge to put them on. She then produced a small flask and had herself a nice morning jolt. She offered a swig to the hipster wearing his ear buds but he declined. A woman in uniform boarded the bus and my mad summer woman asked her quite loudly if she was a cop. The woman identified herself as a traffic management officer. This satisfied my mad summer woman and she offered her a swig from her flask as well. The traffic management officer took it from her, likely not sure what she was supposed to do with it. Once she realized what it was she returned it un-sipped to the mad summer woman as politely as could be.
My old summer madwoman shrugged and took a swig herself. That last swig must have loosened something in her nose because she began sniffling. She started rummaging through her bag again until she found a neon green shirt. That would have to suffice evidently as she proceeded to blow her nose into the green neon shirt. Once she was done she tucked it back into her bag as if it had never happened.
My stop was approaching and not soon enough. I rose to the back bus doors, as did the hipster and the traffic management officer. They looked at each other with a knowing silence. When the bus stopped and we disembarked they had a good laugh at this mad summer woman offering them some sort of drink so early in the morning. I stayed silent and walked past them. I had started to wonder and imagine this mad old summer woman as a young summer girl.
I walked toward my office building and wondered if she was free; truly free from the bonds I was now saddled with. She seemed contented in her madness as I seem miserable in my sanity. I wondered who really was the unfortunate one.