It was on a cross-country bus that I met the cat whisperer. I fell in love with her right away. Older, she had a soft, out of focus face surrounded by a lop-sided helmet of cotton candy hair. Her faded orange cardigan (embellished by embroidered cats in various states of play) was(more) worn bravely over a stained, wrong-buttoned blouse that resembled a doily. On her lapel was a shriveled boutonniere. Over her lap was a home made afghan that had seen better days. So had she, and she was fabulous.
She must have felt I was worthy of approach based on the fact that we had both knit through the last two states. Across the isle from one another, we had sat in silence, needles clicking the miles into evening.
I was almost asleep when I heard her low whisper-croak, “Do you like cats?”
Startled, I answered, “Yes, I do.”
“Cats have secret names that are known only to them.” She imparted wisely.
This had never occurred to me. I thought about it for quite awhile before answering. I asked my new friend how I could make sure not to offend a cat the next time I named one. After all, if the cat had a secret name, didn’t that infer it might also have names it would like to avoid being called?
She didn’t answer. I kept knitting.
The next morning I got off the bus before she woke up. I left her the afghan I had finished. (less)
His head nodded onto my shoulder instead of hers. He was so delicate, his bones were like doll-house furniture--easily broken. I couldn't believe he had fallen asleep on the bus as it lumbered and lurched northward. She was on the phone, head turned towards the old man a few(more) seats to her left as though she didn't particularly want us to hear her conversation. I knew she wouldn't be upset to see him sleeping on me--at least, she wouldn't be upset with me. She would probably yell at him later. She was especially possessive of things she didn't care for. (less)
I preferred this mode of travel. On the bus you could see the country up close and personal. And you could carry a gun. They didn't want you to have a gun anywhere in the UK, but security was much more lax than plane travel.
So when I realized that I would(more) have to disappear for a while, I chose to take a bus. I first used an online ticket agent to charter a boat from Brighton to Le Havre. Then I went to the station near my flat and bought a one-way ticket to Brighton using my credit card. I gave both tickets to a young girl in line. Next I took a city bus to a station across London, and used cash to buy a ticket to Birmingham.
It would have taken only two hours if I had driven, but going incognito requires some sacrifices. So as I settled in for the four hour trip, I watched the country roll by, and planned the next leg.(less)
It was the uncomfortable silence that made me look up. Riding the bus is an exercise in blocking out all sorts so of noises: conversations, the odd music bleed-through from headphones, honks, shouts and the din from the air conditioning. Into the vacuum of noise rushed my attention, and(more) despite my training, I looked up. There he was, next to the driver, finger pawing through a collection of coins that would prove to be too few for the required fare. Perhaps it was the clunk of the first coin, a quarter, rattling through the stanchion, which caused the cessation in noise. I could see in his movements a building sense of desperation. No matter how many times he would look through his meager collection of money, it would be short. His head jerked toward the occupants, looking for help. Of course we locked eyes. For that briefest amount of time the full bore of his need traveled into my brain. Unconsciously, I felt the outside of my pocket, the lump of coins in my possession as obvious as his need. I turned away, looking out the window at the passing cars, those people not reduced to relying on busses and the kindness of strangers. He exchanged more words with the driver, the silence over, and I could hear the grumbling from behind me. The usual accusations: drunk, low-life, street rat, others. Just when it seemed the driver would have to remove him, someone else, some guy behind me, gets up, strolls to the front and deposits the rest of the money. Murmurs of thanks from the stranger to the rider. The guy behind me sits again and the stranger, the drunk, sits just in front of me; and I spend the rest of the trip avoiding him.(less)
This bus has been checked for sleeping children, like Cantonese check for swan pits. It has sapphire wheels which ride like bee stings off the necks of widows. It doesn't stop - for even an acute hum - to well the seem of pregnancy. It sings together all the(more) part of angels in which Corsos reside.(less)