some days the bear will eat you
some days you'll eat the bear

joan armatrading

Thursday April 19. 2001

on a C bus

Right as I was coming down the stairs, the train was pulling into the station. The exact train I needed to get downtown as quickly as possible. I hopped on quickly, marveling at my luck. Unfortunately, it ended there.

First to Hagstoz's, a jewelry supply place in the heart of Jeweler's Row. As soon as I stepped inside, I had a bad feeling, that feeling of they will not have what you need and you came all the way downtown for nothing. Of course they didn't have half inch silver tubing. It's supposed to come in on Monday, the guy behind the counter informs me.

The walk up to Arch Street, a path I've walked many times, seemed miles long, it was too hot and the exhaust fumes coming from a thousand internal combustion engines made me feel nauseous and made my eyes water.

I get to Arch Street Plastics. I walk in, the room's torn apart, boxes everywhere. I knew they were moving to a new location April 23rd, but I thought they were, you know, moving April 23rd.

"Are you open?" I asked feebly.

"No," the skinny blonde woman answered. Her hair was spiked and her leathery skin looked like it had seen the inside of one too many tanning beds. I thought about begging, I need this stuff now or my project will never be done on time. But I just wasn't up to it.

So. Dammit. I walked out, feeling the tears of frustration well up. No, don't cry in front of the construction men eating lunch, suck it UP, you wimp, stop being a girl.

In times of trouble, my mind found solace where it usually does: through my stomach. I found myself at the brand new McDonalds at Broad and Arch.

I scarfed my burger as the local sped north. We stopped at Girard, and a few moments later, an express train pulled up. I gathered my things quickly, intending to sprint across the platform to the other train. As I was standing up, my brand new Danish School Satchel took the opportunity to barf its entire contents onto the floor of the subway car. Sketchbook, journal, wallet, sunglasses, a dozen small scraps of paper.


I was just glad that nothing embarassing had been in my bag. I gathered my things up quickly, the full car of people staring at me, and plopped back in the seat. The train had already pulled out of the station and my chance to get on the express was gone.

"It's been of those days," I sighed to the girl across from me, who was eating a can of Pringles.

She smiled. "It'll get better." She got off a few steps later at Temple.

I found myself once again waiting for the C bus in the middle of Broad Street. In rain, in snow, in freezing cold, in sweltering heat I have stood on that little island of pavement, peering anxiously south, looking for the little yellow digital sign proclaiming "Cheltenham - Ogontz Ave" coming towards me. As I was boarding, I noticed the same woman with the copper colored micro braids who had ridden downtown with me was now riding back uptown on the same bus that I was. What were the chances of that?

There was a guy on the bus. I have long since gotten used to the drunk, high or belligerent people who frequently populate SEPTA buses, but this guy looked just...out of it. He was white, tall and well dressed in a suit coat, looking half asleep, his head rolling back and rivulets of drool snaking down his chin. He looked as if he was desperately trying to stay awake but failing miserably. I took a seat across the bus and watched him out of the corner of my eye. I could tell everyone around me was too, but they stayed silent, deciding to see how this drama played out.

"Sir...sir?" it was the woman with the micro braids, speaking in the authoritative voice that only middle-aged black women seem to have. She spoke louder. "Sir, are you oKAY?"

Her voice startled him out of his stupor. He looked up, as he if was surprised he was on a bus. He spoke a few slow, garbled words, most of which I couldn't understand, but I managed to make out "doctor gave me too much Methodone".


More muttering. Something about the 55 bus and Doylestown.

"He should've gotten off at Olney," I heard the woman mutter to herself. She turned her attention to the driver. "Bus driver! Bus driver! We have a sick man here..." All around her were murmurs from the other passengers, he can get off here and walk over a block and get the 55...

"YOU'RE GOING TO GET OFF HERE, OKAY? THEN JUST WALK OVER A BLOCK. SIT UP, YOU DON'T WANT TO FALL." The man was slow leaning over in his seat and looked as if he might pitch over onto the floor at my feet. He slowly got up and unsteadily made his way to the front of the bus, down the stairs and out onto the street. All the occupants of the bus watched the man as he stumbled, disoriented, down the sidewalk, nearly walking into the traffic.

"That's it, I'm going with him," the woman with the microbraids said. She hurried down the stairs and caught with up the man and gently took his arm to guide him back onto the sidewalk. We all watched until the bus rounded the corner and the woman and the man were out of sight. I heard someone murmur, "Bless her."

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One Year Ago:
"I taped my 26x40 inch piece of 300 lb cold press watercolor paper up on the closet this evening to try to motivate myself. Instead, it taunts and teases me with its pristine unfilled whiteness. The longer this piece of paper remains in its present condition the less likely I am to earn an A from Chuck."