This September night looks like Ophelia headed our way and the sky is dark and menacing.
Finally the bus pulls up. It’s been here but only now put its lights on so we’d know if it’s the one we’re waiting for. The other busses sit with their lights out, the drivers on break. I suppose the riders need a union too?
There’s a good crowd but plenty of seats. I sit sideways in the old people seats behind the driver.
He weaves the giant bus off 5th Street through cars parked on both sides on Anthony Street to the light at Sixth Street.
Off to the left, you can’t see it now because it’s long gone, but once, before these senior skyscrapers came along, right over there, next to where the gas station is, that’s where the pony rides were located when I was a kid.
Did I tell you I was the fastest draw in the wild west city of Belleville, N.J., in 1961? That’s when Marty Robbins wrote and released El Paso. Oh. I did tell you. Wait until you get old and start to repeat yourself!
At the stop across the street from Clara Maass Medical Center, on gets Bam-Bam, a regular who hops this bus to Centre Street in Nutley to catch the 13 to Belleville which is where we are now. It’s a perfect example of “you can’t get there from here.”
The metal tip of Bam-Bam’s cane is bursting through the plastic cap. I don’t know his name, but when he talks to the bus driver, he ends his sentences with Bam-Bam. There are a lot of regulars on this bus, and except for Jimmy the magician, I don’t know their names, and that includes the few I have conversations with.
Bam-Bam looks like the actors Herb Edelman and Herschel Bernardi. He talks loud and clear and doesn’t care who hears what he has to say.
I got up from the senior seat for him and took a seat further back as Bam-Bam climbed aboard. Ahead of him a guy who seemed okay gets on and takes the seat I left.
Someone else got up from the opposite senior sideways seats and Bam-Bam plopped down, looping his cane in the hand-hold bar.
Bam-Bam thanked the guy who got up. I nodded as if to say ‘don’t mention it.’ But I don’t think he ever saw me either get up to give him my seat or nod back to say not to mention it.
My first wife calls that putting bricks in your house in heaven. All I did was give the guy a seat.
The 6:53 No. 74 Bus to Paterson is flying me home in the early dark of the night. I’m wondering if I’ll beat the rain. I know my umbrella will stay dry – it’s hanging on a doorknob in the basement.
In the silhouette of the night the few remaining buildings are backlit by the fading light as they wonder will they too be part of the Essex Park housing development or turned into rubble before the leaves change colors.
I turn off El Paso and pack up the Walkman.
Against the odds I sat safe and dry in my little red wagon. Before I could pull away from the curb the sky opened up. Driving home was not unlike a long ride through a car wash tunnel.
Copyright © 2005 by Anthony Buccino, all rights reserved. Content may not be used for commercial purposes without written permission. Updated May 2008
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