Sunday, January 04, 2009

Waiting for the 714

I've written about how much I love riding the bus. I know I'm one of the lucky ones, I live on a Rapid route that takes me straight downtown to work. I've only had one encounter with a crazy person in the form of Mordecai, a man in his 70s who was boisterous and vocal about his political and religious views all the way from La Brea to Fairfax. And I've only had one experience where I felt the slightest unease and a twinge of fear from my safety. I was taking a different line to meet friends for dinner. Walking a few blocks away from work, the streets grew more and more sketchy. As I staked my claim under the metro sign, an older man, unshaven, in a tattered t-shirt, looked me in the eye, smiled a yellow, gristled grin and said hello. Polite til the end (which I hoped wouldn't be that night) I said hello back, and re-focused my gaze to where I hoped to see the red bus appear. "The 720 is late! he exclaimed, "making a pretty girl like you wait." I gave a half-smile, never can turn down a compliment, my focus still distant to discourage conversation.

The man moved along the sidewalk, stating to no one in particular, "It wasn't until I moved downtown that I started talking to myself. Don't know why. So many people and no one to talk to."

A man whose wide eyes were a bit too bright, too glassy, offered me a DVD. Three DVDs, to be exact, each a different xeroxed picture of porn stars. I politiely declined to purchase, and he looked straight in my eyes with his wild ones and said, "You're over 18, right?" and offered his collection again. Not exactly the problem, I explained and stepped away.

Seeing he couldn't make a sale, he asked for a dollar for a sandwich. I didn't think it wise to open my wallet and rifle through bills, so I declined again, clutching my $1.25 bus fare in my other hand. He held out his hand to introduce himself, and I gave him mine, involunatarily pulling away when he raised it to his lips. I stepped away again, not sure what I should feel, leaving him foolishly kissing the air, eyes closed, bent at the waist like a gentleman bowing, his set of porn still in the other hand.

How different a setting from just blocks west, where every night I wait for my evening bus ride home outside a high-rise retirement center in downtown L.A. The next night, I watched as families dropped off their parents or grandparents, helping them out of the car and with grocery bags or a purse-puppy in tow. As I strained to see the 714 pull up, I heard a flute playing, weaving in and out of the sounds of traffic. It wasn't mournful, or happy, but just the right tempo for that warm November night. I strained my eyes up toward the sound and saw the flutist standing seven floors up, a music stand on the balcony in front of her. I dug through my bag for my recorder, on hand for a postponed interview, and captured a bit of what that night, waiting for the bus, sounded like.
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2 comments:

Dionne Sincire said...

gotta love street life in LA.., never a dull moment. :) glad to see that you lived to tell the tale. more please.

Caroline said...

This is a beautiful little piece --of course, the main thing I took away was how lucky you are that a crazy person thought you looked under 18.