Ahead of the crowd, I settle into a choice window seat.
This former school bus won’t roll from Times Square
deep into New Jersey until every seat is paid for. I eye
all those boarding. They are, to quote Sly Stone,
everyday people. More than a few women board, lugging
shopping bags and little kids, and despite knowing
they will have to put their bags or kid on their laps,
they spread out as though ready to picnic. If I’m looking
for a seat, and need to ask one of these women to kindly
reign in her domain, I get pissed off. If I’m already seated,
I make damn sure my things are on the floor at my feet
or on my lap. Legs slightly apart, I will not budge
for any man. Always there are a number of larger than
normal (yes, normal)-sized boarders, and if you need
to sit beside one, or worse yet, beside a legs-way-spread
motherfucker, half of you painfully ends up in the aisle,
where you’re sure to be mauled by fat asses, and battered
by bag after bag, at every one of the 10,000 New Jersey
stops. When a rare, slim, maybe sweet smelling woman
looks for a seat, I shrink, to make the spot beside me more
inviting. It never works. A regular-sized guy ends up
sitting beside me. The last person allowed to board
is a small, taut Mexican laborer. When he finds no place
to sit, he heads back to the driver to retrieve his fare
and leave. The driver, though, accounts for every seat,
and knows there’s one remaining. He rises and waves
the Mexican on, escorting him to a woman seated beside
her small child, a woman who, moments ago, had seen
the Mexican looking for a seat, but hadn’t made any
move to put her big-headed kid on her lap. Coldly,
the driver gestures for her to do so. As she lifts her kid,
the driver turns to the Mexican, but he’s no longer there.
Silently, he’s stepped to the rear of the bus, where he stands.
The driver gets back behind the wheel. The Mexican exudes
a kind of detached peacefulness, like a turtle sunning
on a rock. Everything I never learned about being a man,
I learn from that Mexican, this late afternoon, on that bus.
Ted Jonathan is a poet and short story writer. Born and raised in the Bronx, he now lives in New Jersey. His work has appeared here, there & nowhere. Bones & Jokes, his most recent full-length collection of poems and short stories, has been published by NYQ Books (2009). His forthcoming collection Run will be published by NYQ Books some time in 2015.