Pressing no. 43

Soft Toy on a Bus Stop Sign
Soft Toy on a Bus Stop Sign, Alexandra Palace, 2008

Do You Remember the First Time?

I recall the second time I saw her. She stepped onto the bus, wearing a once-formiddable black woolen coat, frayed at the edges, a kite and bamboo cane in hand. Curly, unkempt hair dyed black-red, eyes kohl-rimmed, but it’s not a gothic effect: she appears nomadic, foreign but not from far away.

She sits in front of me and picks at the end of the bamboo cane with blunted, frayed nails, fingertips untidy, perhaps muddy. She’s clearly older than I am, but the disregard for tidy finesse is impish, appealing. She caps it all off by waving at a baby, which I usually find sinister but in her is charming. I let her off of the bus before me, and she thanks me. I say no worries to hide my heart melting.

That same journey a large lady with a thick Jamaican accent had briefly ambled aboard with her child, gender unclear. She smiled and waved good afternoon to the sparse bottom deck and, inaudible over the thrum of the engine, began to talk to us, a slow and rumbling sermon.

We stopped at traffic lights for a second, time enough for me to catch one line before she left at the next stop. A few words, divorced of context, but to me a deeply unsettling and sinister message: “Jesus loves you ___________ and Jesus is coming very soon”

© Matthew Sheret, 2008

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