nyc bus

passing notes

In ALL, FRIENDSHIP, NEW YORK by Stephanie Klein

There’s a woman in the bus seat across from me wearing a quilted long puffer coat with a folded Louis Vuitton garment bag in her lap.  At her feet stand an unmarked brown shopping bag (I presume from a sample sale) and an overstuffed, double-bagged Carnegie Deli bag, except it’s not Carnegie Deli.  But, it’s close enough.  She looks like a young Marcia Gay Hardon, more hard than gay.  Good eyebrows.  I’ve always found brunette women the most beautiful; I think because they’re so different from my fair everything.  She looks warm, beyond her layers: warm and complete, in pressed jeans, crease in tact.  A tattered Oprah List book, suede shoes.  I want her life; she reminds me of an old friend I miss.  She looks like she leads a cozy life full of sisters, where they watch good TV beneath a comforter on a sofa together.  She drinks hot beverages and snacks on apples, sliced into wedges on a plate with smears of peanut butter.  Maybe she’s a schoolteacher with an expensive husband.  I imagine she has a sweet liquid laugh, the kind of woman you want to delight, just to hear her.  I want to write about her and tell her so, let her know, a stranger sees her as remarkably beautiful, nurturing, and warm—all without a word.  But if I give her a card, she’ll over think and raise an eyebrow.  I’ll give it to her anyway.

I didn’t have a card, so I tore a sheet of paper from my notebook, folded it quickly as my bus stop approached, and as I handed it to her I said, “I’m sorry, but I have to give you this.”  I don’t know why I apologized.  I do that too often.  At my last job, a woman accidentally walked in on me while I was on the toilet, and I quickly apologized to her.  “Oh, God, sorry.”  Sorry?!  It’s the same when someone phones me in the middle of the night with, “Sorry, did I wake you?”  It’s 3a.m; I’m in a clamor to sit up, and in my best mock-alert voice I offer, “Oh no, I was up.”  As if there’s something wrong with being asleep?  I can’t admit it?  Instead, I apologize for sounding tired.

The woman on the bus was startled.  She looked, at the moment I handed her the paper, as if she thought I might eat her.  When I got off the bus, I imagined she read what I’d written on the page and almost shared it with the passenger beside her.  Curious, nervous, why me, and who was that redhead?  I imagine I’d feel the same way.  I just wanted her to know, if maybe she was having a bad day, just based on her book cover, she seemed fulfilled and happy, but maybe that’s more about what I wanted to see than anything to do with her.  Maybe I just miss my friend and have been in need of her warm comfort.  Or at least a proper winter coat.