Unwanted, unacknowledged, untended, underfed, unappreciated, unloved, unnoticed, undervalued, undone. The life of the drunk man who sneaked on the bus today and sat by me.
Wanted, acknowledged, tended, fed, appreciated, loved, noticed, valued, empowered. My life.
I was riding on an L.A. Metro bus waiting for my soon-to-arrive stop, when the bus stopped to let people off and he sneaked in from the back door and sat next to me. His breath reeked of alcohol, he was dirty, and he was hoping to avoid the notice of the bus driver. He was hopeful that I would not make a fuss, because his day had been one more difficult day in the accumulating number of difficult days that are his life. He didn’t really choose me; I was simply sitting in a convenient place for him to slide in.
I told him that I was about to get off so he shouldn’t sit there, but he ignored me. He spoke somewhat incoherently and I didn’t understand what he said. I told him he hadn’t paid and he started to panic and began talking about how he lives in the Hollywood Hills and is very rich, and the alcohol smell was strong. I felt very uncomfortable and decided to change the subject because he seemed agitated and was moving closer. I talked about the unseasonable rain in L.A. that morning and he was distracted. He realized I wasn’t going to say anything to the bus driver so he became chatty. But then he asked me my name, gave me his, tried to take my hand, really reeked of alcohol.
I was unsure what to do but then we reached my stop, and I told him to press the button for me because we had arrived at my stop. He moved and I pressed the button and asked him to let me out. I was unsure—afraid he might get off and follow me, unsure whether to just go out the back door or go to the front and notify the bus driver, unprepared for this situation. He turned slightly in his seat barely giving me room to get by. I grabbed my things close, forgot my scarf, and exited the bus from the back. He didn’t follow. I felt relieved, noticed my forgotten scarf, walked the wrong way and then corrected my direction.
And what about him? He felt gratitude towards me that I had remained silent, sat quietly for the rest of the trip, got off at his stop to continue his usual existence.
Two hearts beating a little too fast. Two lives being lived—one with acceptance, the other with rejection. Both equal.