Sometimes you get the window seat.
And sometimes you don’t.
At 6:24 on a Tuesday morning, the bus is quiet, the people on it grateful to have jobs, to be up, dressed, and well on their way to the golden light of a Friday afternoon.
At 6:24, the odds of getting a window seat are in your favor.
He sat down next to me not more than five blocks later.
There are two bars at this particular stop, one on each side of the street. Aside from the occasional shouted assertions that something or someone is “Number One!” and the year that the Pirates and the Zombies* had a drunken dance-off in the parking lot, there is little trouble in this neighborhood.
He hasn’t been to sleep, that much is clear.
He checks me out: the black leather flats, the skirt, the bracelets, the violently chartreuse bag.
Having seen enough, he turns to face the front.
“There’s no future in full-time employment,” he says.
I don’t look at him. “I suspect you’re right,” I say.
“Don’t patronize me.”
I turn to look at him. “Sorry,” I say.
“No,” he says, thoughtfully, “the smart money is on rodents.”
“Squirrels, rats, homeless dudes with great attitudes and a way of getting things.”
He turns to face me, smiles. “You got a dollar?”
I look at him, smile back. “Yes, I do.”
We stare at each other.
“Don’t suppose I can talk you out of it, can I?”
I shake my head, return to facing forward. “I have exactly two dollars and 38 cents. Buys me a coffee.”
A soft puff of air escapes his lips: Pffft. “Wellll,” he says, “I suppose you have a right to that, dontcha?”
I don’t say anything.
“What about a cash card?”
I turn to look at him. I cock my head to one side and squint.
“Really?” I say. “Are you proposing we head to an ATM with my cash card?”
He shrugs. “You never know the answer until you ask the question.”
I shake my head: No.
I go back to looking out the window.
He stands up. I see him nod at me in the window. He heads to the back of the bus. I turn around to watch him sit next to a good-sized woman in a good-sized United Way promotional tee-shirt.
She smiles at him as he sits down.
“There’s no future in full-time employment,” I hear him say. She is already nodding as I turn to face the front.
And the bus drives on.
*Opening footage shot in the park across the street from my house. At 1:06 you can see it. Yes, this is my neighborhood…