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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Yet When He Closes His Eyes, He Dreams

He is a large man, not just for the bus, but for anywhere.  The back of his head, the set of his shoulders, speak of Vikings and lumberjacks.  Even the curl of his pink/freckle-speckled ears, large as soup bowls, seem to have come from another setting, a time when a man this size rode into town on a tornado, commandeered the wimmen folk and held back fate with the wave of a thick, meaty hand.

He’s in the seat ahead of me.

While a bit overweight, he could not, accurately, be described as “fat”.  He is a barrel-chested man, a man with a neck like a thigh and shoulders built for the weight of the world.  

He is a big man in a small world.

A woman sits next to him.  Small, the winter’s daily carb-intake memo no doubt lost in the mail, she fits nicely in the seat next to him.

The color crawls up his neck in a painfully slow display that something is amiss.  He fidgets, squishes his enormous shoulders against the window.  He twitches once, twice, pauses for a moment and then begins again.

It is excruciating to watch.  He cannot hold still.  His seatmate glances at him, glances at the space between them.  Is she in his space?  Are they touching?  No.  But he cannot stop himself; and over and over again, he presses away, squirmily making something from nothing. 

I close my eyes, and ,my mother’s voice hisses in my ear.  Stop that right now, she says.  Suddenly the man in front of me, 300 pounds if he’s an ounce, is wearing a frilly dress and a pair of Mary Janes.  His feet swing from the edge of the pew as my mother both scowls and offers half a stick of Juicy Fruit.

You sit still now.

I reach in my purse.

I don’t have any gum.  I cannot help this man.

The squirming becomes unbearable.  Even from behind him, the urge to lean over and smack him on the back of the head – cut that out! – is overwhelming, and eventually, the tiny woman sitting next to him stands up and moves away to sit next to someone else.

I watch the back of his neck as the color fades.

And Erik the Red goes back to staring out the window at a world too small for him.  


Shelly said...

Our mothers' voices are a powerful tool that help us our whole lives through. And this piece, the imagery, the details...a true gem.

Anonymous said...

Probably just painfully shy.

Pearl said...

Shelly, between my mom and my grandma, I don't get a moment's peace!

Delores, "painful" is right. He needed a beer. Or a massage. Or to go running to the shelter of mother's little helper... :-)

vanilla said...

You dressed the man in frilly attire and Mary Janes, yet could not find half-stick of JF in your purse. A tale of frustration all around.

Pearl said...

vanilla, I failed him.

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
... hmmmmm reverse of the flicking incident of the other bus travel tale you told... wonder how he will tell it to his workmates?! YAM xx

jenny_o said...

OCD, maybe ... I feel for him. People don't get to choose their bad luck. I feel incredibly lucky that I don't have to fight that battle.

ThreeOldKeys said...

i bet you never leave a grocery cart blocking the aisle ... and i bet no one has ever called you oblivious!

your antennae are amazing ... where did you get them?

Eva Gallant said...

Your descriptions are so vivid!

Elephant's Child said...

Oh Pearl. You made my heart ache for this poor man's discomfort. Which sat comfortably with my snickers at your urges to smack him into line. It is a crowded place in my head.

Joanne Noragon said...

The poor fellow. I felt his embarrassment all the way to Ohio.

Daisy said...

Sometimes we just don't fit in those predetermined spaces. Poor guy.

Watson said...

PEARL! The old guy from the balcony next to mine is talking with a young guy on the ground...you gotta come here! :-D They are talking about Wendy's, A&W, the price of hamburgers with or without coffee...and someone named Hanna!
I thought of you and can't stop laughing - quietly of course!

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

You wrote that beautifully, Pearl.

Lin said...

I'm sure he's weary of the nudges he gets from seatmates all over town--the movies, the bus, on a plane...the world is full of too-small seats for big people. I'm sure he is not alone in his squirming in trying to make himself smaller.

River said...

Usually I'm the one squashing myself closer to the window and trying to be as small as possible because someone who requires two seats has sat down next to me. Usually it isn't the larger person who feels the discomfort this man did. Perhaps he was told all his life, "move over, don't take up so much room"