It’s Atlanta, After All

It’s been one of those days. It’s raining. I’m late for everything, people have been rude. I’ve soaked in all the abuse I can take, and I’m behind in getting Jackson from school. I’m coasting through yellow lights, and taking questionable routes to make up time. I get over to the right lane too soon and bam, I’m stuck behind a bus. Now I’m still. Completely still, and surrounded by busy people trying to get where they’re going. I’m looking in front and behind for a way out, while the MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) slowly releases its brake pressure from the underside holding tank. My toes move up and down quickly in my shoes, my fingers start to tap the steering wheel, I check the clock. I’m three minutes give or take, from Jackson’s school. The bell has just rung. The traffic is building up behind me, and to the left of me. Contorted faces in the rearview mirror. Hand gestures. Exasperation. Yet the bus just continues to sit. From my vantage point I can see its door open, but no one is getting on or off. I inch up. Wonder what the hell is happening. Then I see her.

She’s probably eighty years old. She’s at least eighty years old. She’s in a long rain coat, one that’s seen better days. She’s wrestling an umbrella too big for her, and one of those wheeled carts, the kind that fold up, store neatly in a closet, or a pantry, or slide under a bed. It’s packed full of groceries in transparent plastic bags. I notice we were just at the same grocery store, but I didn’t see her. I eye the bags as she shuffles past my car. Coffee, milk, peanut butter, is that a cake mix? She’s shuffling, as fast as she can toward the bus stop. The bus driver has spotted her. I watch black shoes hop down to the curb, blue cargo pants.

The woman holds her hands out, as if to say stop, stop look at me, I’m coming as fast as I can. The driver touches her hands, puts them down in a comforting way, says something to her. I can’t hear what he says, because my windows are rolled up. In the warm, calm of my car I relax into my heated, leather seats. Subconsciously I lay a hand on my cage-free, brown eggs on the passenger seat. The driver puts one hand on her cart, the other he uses to steady her at her small, fragile elbow. My wipers swipe.

The cars behind me start to honk. Because it’s Atlanta, after all. I throw my hands up, to tell them they are out of line, but I don’t curse them. Because it’s Atlanta. The driver and the woman slowly make their way to the bus. I watch as her small blue shoes make their way up the steps. Then I see a space, watch the black shoes lean in, he’s putting her cart inside the bus. Then I see the black shoes step up the two steps. The door closes.

The bus inhales. Lifts a couple inches off the ground, and crawls forward a bit. I’ve already missed the light. We all have.

M.