While on the bus ride home today, a homeless man boarded the bus with several pieces of luggage. He had a band-aid across his nostrils and he kept getting in the way of others since his luggage was quite cumbersome. I was sitting in a window seat and trying to read to distract myself from his presence near me. I feared that the woman beside me would leave and then the man would sit down beside me since I was sitting in one of the “wider” seats, i.e., there was more space between my row and the row in front.
My fear came true as I watched my bus mate stand up and exit through the back door of the bus. The man took that opportunity to stake the claim on the seat (well, he asked others first if they wanted to sit); he proceeded to box me into my window seat with his luggage and then he sat down beside me. I scooted closer to the window and attempted to stay as far away from him as possible. I was feeling slightly paranoid since we had been talking at work about strange characters in the city, so I held my guard up in case the guy would try to swipe my belongings.
Around ten blocks before my stop, I stopped reading so I could focus on where I was; the guy noticed I was finished reading and assumed I was getting off soon. “Getting off?” he asked me. I shook my head “No” and he then said, “Oh okay, well let me know when you’re getting off so I can move my stuff; you don’t want me to fall asleep and leave you trapped!”
My guard was still up, but after a few seconds, I realized the guy was pretty harmless. He began to ask me about what book I was reading (Catch-22) and he mused, “It’s been awhile since I’ve read a book, but I used to love reading so much.” I relaxed and shook my head as he had a monologue (I think he got the hint that I was not overly interested in talking with him, sadly) about his past love for reading, and then talking about painkillers numbing him.
Once it was time for my stop, the man moved his belongings over to another seat so that I would have a clear path to get out of the bus. I had pulled out a small snack from my lunch bag, intending to give it to him, but since he moved to a row further up in the bus, the opportunity already seemed lost. When he settled into his new seat with his bags, he looked exhausted.
I boarded off the bus and felt a twinge of sadness as I watched him go on his way. I wonder where he was headed; towards the beach? Towards the far edge of Golden Gate Park? In many ways, he reminded me of my short story “Riches to Rags” and I wondered about his life story.