For I have known them all already, known them all —
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room
So how should I presume?
The book: The Waste Land & Other Poems by T.S. Eliot
Do you feel the dither? The trembling under our feet? The earth is moving. We’re pulsating amidst its rumblings.
Do you feel the dither? Do you, really? Right now, the only trembling I feel is Megabus making its way down this well-worn country road, blanketed under thousands of millions of leaves red, yellow, orange, and green. The distance between the road and me is barely one foot, and at such close proximity, I intimately feel each bump, each small imperfection of a road, smooth when perceived at a distance. Ahead of me are cars loaded with people returning to the city and surrounding me is a clutter of strangers, half-asleep, half-absorbed in their headphones. Across the seat from me is an African (American?) woman, black headscarf lined with laced eye-lets and lime green and navy striped sweater.
I had seen her earlier. Our bus was over an hour late, and when another finally arrived, she was first in line to board with her baby on her hip. Her other four children and their luggage close by. Along with the other taxed travelers, I was waiting in line to board the bus, all of us anxious to reach our mutual destination of new york city, where each of us would then scatter without a word to one another to our final destinations: our homes. The bus attendant wouldn’t let her on the bus. She had to purchase bus tickets for her two toddlers. It was policy. No, she couldn’t get around it. Lady, you’re holding up the line. Don’t raise your voice at me, I don’t want to be disrespected. I didn’t yell at you, ma’am, but you’re holding up the line and you need to go buy tickets.
She left in a huff to purchase additional tickets. Her children guarded the luggage while she was gone. I don’t remember this well; I, like everyone else, was impatient and tired, and desperately just wanted to board. I had someplace to be.
I was one of the first people to grab a seat on the bus, and when the bus slowly filled up, there she was again. This lady was looking for an empty row: she had 2 toddlers and needed space. She sat down next to me, with her baby, but each of her children had to sit apart, because there were only a few scattered empty seats left.
After a few minutes, I switched seats with her because I could tell she needed the space, and my singular tote bag had allowed me ample leg-room. Now, she’s sitting across the narrow aisle from me, and I can’t help but wonder about her. How weary she must be. Traveling alone with four children. As soon as the bus hummed along its way, she quickly fell asleep while holding her baby, and I imagine she must have been so tired. She needed to harness any opportunity she had to slumber.
Was she relieved to rest her legs? Were her arms numb from holding so tightly onto another human being? Was she thinking of the list of to-dos when she got home? Or was she daydreaming of wants and desires as opposed to responsibilities? Or was she recalling memories of her kids in seemingly ordinary events, but they were extraordinary to her?
Why can’t I stop thinking about this woman? Where is she going? Where was she coming from? The only thing we have in common is the woozy swerving of the Megabus. The vibrations of a machine against cement carrying us both south bound. Will I ever see her again in my life? She must have someplace to be, too. She needs this bus, these vibrations to carry her home, where she is so much more than woman-on-a-bus. She’s returning to her somewhere, while I am returning to mine. Though, with her somewhere, there, she is someone to many other someones.
The earth is moving, but so am I. The vibrations envelop my person as I’m moving at 55 miles per hour; I feel all the sensations, nausea and all. This monstrosity of a bus, mega, taking us all for a ride. The earth is moving underneath as I sit very, very still.
Memory Moment Forty One.
Next Week: Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates