Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Getting it back ten thousand times

In the bus from mid-town in the afternoon. The two men are speaking to each other in Spanish. The young one is carrying a large basket and he taking instructions from the old man he is clearly helping. Listening to them, I realize that they don't know each other, that the young man has just offered his help. He goes to sit a couple of rows further in the bus. The old man continues his conversation with him all the same, just increasing his voice.

As I am watching them, another man walks into the bus. Stumble is more like it. Despite the early hour, he seems drunk or high. He is shouting to no one in particular. The woman nearby is simply terrified and she slides slowly to the empty seat further away from him.
His English is not that of a native speaker and I identify his accent as coming from a francophone African country. He is now speaking about the good manners that his mother taught him. There is a bus schedule on the floor and he keeps saying that this is awful, that we should all keep the bus clean and not litter its floor with bus schedules. Then he says "ten thousand times, ten thousand times. Whatever you do, you'll get it back ten thousand times." He announces this with a normal voice, very different from his previous outbursts. I wonder what is his story. How did he end up here, in America, obviously struggling with the country and the system.
I see him exiting the bus holding the bus schedule he must have picked up from the floor.


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