The days are numbered.
Overhead, the intense blue of a Minnesota sky pours down upon us, an early-fall blessing.
Be happy, Minneapolitans.
The bus is full: there are two to a seat, there are folks in the aisle. I had been lucky to get one of the last of the seats, next to a sharply dressed woman with a book in her lap.
There is little room for us, and yet the mood is upbeat.
Can a whole bus be happy?
A woman with spiral hair steps aside to allow a woman with a brightly colored ponytail a little more room, and they smile at each other. A very large man in a suit and a man in kitchen garb work their way toward the back exit, get off at the next available stop, and they all laugh as they squeeze by each other: excuse me, pardon me, so sorry.
I look up to see a man in the aisle five, maybe six people away, staring at me.
He looks so familiar, and yet he seems too thin.
David! A fellow bus rider. I haven’t seen him for years, I think.
I give him a big smile, and he raises a hand, smiles back.
David is brilliant. Our talks were of horticulture, of birds and the politics of a simple life.
At the next stop, the aisle clears enough for David to make his way toward my seat. Pardon me, he says. Excuse me.
“David!” I exclaim. “Where the hell have you been?”
And then I see it: a slowness.
“Pearl,” he says, smiling. “I’ve been gone. A year and a half.”
“Where?” I say. “Where did you go?”
He shrugs, leans in so close that our noses almost touch. I resist the urge to kiss him. “I ask myself,” he says.
He lays a cautious finger on his temple. “Part of my brain is loose. Guess it has been since I was born.”
Eyes locked, we laugh, just a little, and I feel something in the center of my chest twist.
“What do you mean,” I say. “How is your brain loose?”
He shrugs again. “It was a very hot day, I remember that. And now –“ He trails off, looks out the bus window. “They’re holding my job. I’m very lucky that way.”
The bus slows, and he turns back to me, looks deep into my eyes. “Here’s my stop,” he says. “I’m so glad I saw you again.”
“Me, too,” I say.
The back door opens, and David steps off the bus.
And overhead, the sky reaches upward, endlessly.