Wednesday, May 23, 2007

dallas south bus station

Sterile clean place that it was, and close to midnight, Dallas South bus station was stage for 3 interesting people. One was a little girl of three or so with a big head of curly hair who hated to be brushed. Her mom, smiling, reached out a hand and that was the hair trigger that sprang her back, laughing, out of reach. When she was caught, big bundle of hair like Bugs Bunny ears, or a bunch of carrots to be pulled in her mom’s hands, her expression ran between the laughter of the chase and irritation at her mom’s victory. Held like that, her body seemed an insignificant appendage to the fountain of hair spouting up and outward, and I couldn’t help thinking the beauty of those locks was beauty for the mother and only trouble for the girl – until, at least, she learned to take the beauty seen by others as a pleasure of her own. I could not stop laughing. The mother had her caught a half dozen times, and once even was able to apply the brush to the unruly brush, but always she squirreled away. Her mom was too tickled by her unremitting sass to grab hold of that hair too long or too tight. Finally the counter man, “Arturo” by his tag, could not resist the fun any longer and approached her, looming over her, in a fatherly way – but looming regardless, on purpose – and said, “Here, lemme fix your hair!” and the little sprite was up on the chair next to her mom as quick as a whip dipped in lightning.

Outside a bus came in with the name “New York” on the front and the driver, a svelt mystery man, descended into our night. He was trim, almost to the point of ballet, but not muscled: a ballet dancer out of practice but not out of habit. He was a black man, face rather long, with a neat mustache, and eyes so long-enduring of some awful knowledge as to be invincibly immoveable -- unruffleable; unassailable, stony, dignified. In my imagination he had stepped out of a 1920’s jazz hall for a break between sets and found himself lost 8 decades away and behind the wheel of a bus, yet somehow knowing that resistance and return were futile, so nothing for it but to step off the bus with the air of a duke dispossessed of lands, retainers, respect – and start taking tickets, and gently endure the chipper comments of the security guard.

“Throw off as many as you want!!” said the guard about the overabundance of passengers, “And best do it while yer movin’!” He grinned a grin as emphatic as the driver’s eyes were enduring, and to see the two of them interact was to shake one’s head and smile and wonder how Mother Earth could bring forth two such different people – yet both so true to his own incandescent essence. The security guard was young, and white, with glasses, and a grin so bouncy and eager – geeky, one might say – that I could not help but be infected by it, even standing on the periphery as I was. He burned with a flame of fierce joy, eagerer than beavers, and I saw him literally skip to it when he hurried over to another duty. He addressed everyone around him without fail or discrimination, the smile there not just on offer, a valet’s paper towel held out unobtrusively in a bathroom, a scalper’s ticket held out furtively from inside a jacket, but a bright apple demanding to be taken.

For most bus riders at midnight, seated on sidewalks and no bus in sight, such a primordial directness of joy was too much. They were veiled in the scar tissue of adulthood, and the gloomy awareness of pecking orders, smiling a little at his eagerness but regarding him from a distance, like tourists regarding with a borrowed cheer the festive passions of a primitive people, like a teenager regarding someone across the street who looked just like an old friend from elementary school, who had not changed a lick. Who was as shiny as ever but who was said to have died. Like someone wondering if he ought to go across the street and say hi, or let it go.

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