As continued from Part 10
FOUR YEARS EARLIER
Monday, July 23, 2012
The 7:25 bus slowed down, preparing to stop at the bus stop. I walked faster even though I felt discontented. The sluggishness of my life had started irritating me. My patience was fast running out. I vividly felt like a misfit in my own neighborhood. They drove – I walked. They ordered – I cooked. They swiped – I prayed. They were all filthy rich, but I had to stretch myself to rise just above the so called poverty line. A huge log was ever on my weary shoulders. Invisible of course, but heavy. Potholes were always on my path. Invisible too, but wide and deep.
The bus sealed its doors and started moving.
“Oh my God!” I picked up my pace in the brutal Clinton Hill sun, hoping the driver would notice me, but he didn’t. I felt tiny and stupid for the street was teeming with people to and from work. Those in the bus and passing cars ogled at me, probably thinking I was insane. I didn’t blame them though. Who runs in high heels carrying a crying baby?
The bus was partially back on the road, leaving the bus stop. Then it accelerated.
My heart sank, but I didn’t give up. I accelerated too. The number of eyes on me had increased, but I ignored them, more especially the laughing ones.
The bus was already some yards away. It was already 7:26, yet about ninety percent of commuters on the bus were the time conscious working class and students. They always gave pressure to the driver. He had to be on time or they could make a call that could make him homeless and starving in a few days.
Kimberly was even jumping in the stomach-to-stomach baby carrier, like something had scared or irritated her. But I didn’t have a second or hands to calm her. My left hand was taking care of the diaper bag and my handbag was in my right hand. I only hoped she was not sick. If she could throw up on my chest, my white blouse could be a mess, even my black pencil skirt.
The bus was a bit far, but I continued running, banking on two things: the mirror and compassion. I hoped their combination would do me justice. I didn’t care anymore about those who thought I was crazy.
Finally, compassion worked – not the mirror. It was the passengers and pedestrians who shouted, whistled and motioned the driver to stop. One old lady, walking her dogs, screamed, “She is carrying a baby for Christ’s sake.”
Risking a traffic ticket, the bus forced a roadside parking on the white line: left side on the road and the right on the concrete trench next to the pavement. But he kept revving the engine.
Wheezing and dripping wet, and irritated by the stickiness of my mouth, I pushed for the last. Then I hopped in already feeling the weight of my debt. I owed the commuters, even the driver, a big ‘thank you,’ yet I feared addressing masses of strangers. Not that I would prepare a speech to render, but I had to face them and say ‘thank you’ before sitting down. And the bus was full.
Panting like a dog on a hot summer day, I said to the driver, “Thanks a lot.” Then I held both bags with one hand and dipped my card, making my payment. The bags almost fell off. My hands were weary like the rest of my body.
“You’re welcome, Ma’am,” the driver said, overtaking a school bus. “What happened today?”
I glanced at him, loving his question. It soothed like a compliment. At least he knew something must have happened for me to be late. He knew I wasn’t a crazy, disorganized woman. “Kids happened. When you have two kids and a job, life is…I don’t know.”
My lungs started slowing down. I jerked away my hair and glanced at the commuters at the corner of my eye. Oh my God! They were gazing at me, hungry for the appreciation. Even an apology.
“Hell,” he said.
Kimberly was still wailing, drawing me more attention, and irritating some people.
“Not exactly, but it’s really crazy,” I said whilst drying my face with a Kleenex.
Finally, I took the dreaded turn to take a seat. They were still staring at me, demanding. And silent.
I was shivering. I only hoped it wasn’t noticeable.
Balancing with the window frame, I made a broad shy smile. “Thank you very much. Thanks.”
Not a soul said a thing. I felt clumsy and embarrassed. I wished I could vanish. I turned towards the empty seat on my right.
“You are welcome, dear,” a granny at the front seat said, smiling. A few others nodded. The satisfaction in the bus was obvious – some even started chatting, yet before the appreciation there was uncomfortable silence. Only the engine revved and rumbled.
Unfortunately, the bus was full. The only free seats were the ones for the handicapped. I had to sit facing the aisle and some eyes.
I sat behind the driver and put the diaper bag and the handbag on my left. Unsure of the health implications of the concoction created by everybody’s perfume, I opened the window above my head. Unlike the stuffy, sweaty buses of the afternoon, it had a lovely, refreshing atmosphere, but it was too saturated for Kimberly’s little lungs.
“Shhh..shhh. Quiet, girl. We got the bus. It’s okay now, shhh…shhh…shhh,” I whispered to Kimberly whilst bumping her on my lap. She was the only pair of eyes I could look at with confidence; everybody else viewed me as an idiot who wanted to make them late for work or school. But I had no evil intention to spoil anybody’s morning. It was Elijah who had to take the blame for the whole thing. If we lived with our equals economically, I wouldn’t make an idiot of myself. The bus would come as close as possible to my house, and I would not need to walk stretches and stretches to the nearest bus stop. Clinton Hill was for the rich, they wouldn’t build a bus stop solely for me.
I firmly pressed my back against the seat, realizing the nice cooling effect of the sweat on my back. It felt like a cold shower.
Kimberly stopped crying and smiled, staring at my eyes. I kissed her until she giggled.
Some man, a little older than me, in his late forties, grinned at me when our eyes met. I grinned back just for being nice, but I didn’t trust anybody in that bus. Yes, they had helped me, but I wouldn’t be completely flattered by that. Some of the regulars were awful people. They reported me to Child Protection Services, claiming I was abusing a baby by taking her to work every day.
Like they cared…No one cared for Kim like me. If they truly cared, why didn’t they approach me and ask if I took the baby to work everyday or I dropped her in a day care center before rushing to work. It’s always annoying when somebody insults your love – your motherliness. They didn’t even know how it’s like to be a mom – to create this bond inside your womb…to become this tiny person’s world for nine plus months. He breathes a share of the oxygen you inhale. You become his clothes, for he is naked inside you. You become his dining-room for he eats what to have eaten. You become his playground for he plays and kicks inside you. You become his bedroom for he sleeps and prays inside you. Most lovely, you become his bathroom where he pees and poops.
The womb is such a powerful place. There is no place like it in all of the earth. All bonds that start inside the womb never end. They are not even divorceable. Midwives only cut the umbilical code they see – they fail to cut the invisible one. The latter connects a mother to her baby forever. Even death fails to cut this powerful code. That’s why on the deathbed, a mother cries and prays for her children – asking God to keep them under the power of his name and the blood of his Son.
I smiled, staring at Kimberly’s tiny face, feeling great love for my innocent little thing.
The bus joined the Interstate 278 Highway, heading downtown Brooklyn. Two cheeky, ghetto-ish college girls at the back complained about being late for a test.
The one closest to the window blew a gum and said, “Only if people don’t chase buses when they are late.”
“Duh!” the other one screamed before they broke into loud, irritating laughter.
Almost everybody stared at me, expecting anything, but I smiled. I knew people treat a poor person the exact way she deserves. But of course I suppressed a tsunami inside me. It’s only in my head where I smashed their heads against the window until it broke and they bled.
My hands wrapped around Kimberly were even quaking a bit, and my temperature had risen again. I told myself I shouldn’t pay attention to those lowlifes; after all I had a husband who truly loved me. I also had two lovely angels who loved me. Both Kimberly and Leon were the flesh of my flesh. They were a piece of me. They were me. When I had to be away from them for a few days I would die somehow. My life would come back to me when I see their cute faces again.
The driver must have heard the ghetto girls – he was constantly on the fast lane.
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