The night was clear and silvered above, lit with a shadowed crescent.
Three stars stand out.
No man waited.
No man passed by.
The bus arrived, hissing and empty of the enemy.
Two brown women, one dark-haired Russian girl and two pale men were conveyed into the cold night where near 30 enemy bucks and bulls once sat—leering-postured, smoldering-eyed, boisterous, as sinister as idiots can be, threatening as much as their tiny brains can conceive.
The bus never gains a sixth passenger.
The streets are empty for the 45-minute ride.
So few folk use the bus that the rider must stop, pause, keep time, continue on to the next empty stop.
For the first night of a harried and beleaguered life, I see not one enemy combatant, not one stick-up boy, knockout-player, posing thug, mumbling bully, strong-arm robber, skulking panhandler, dope-slinging corner boy, swaggering punk—not one piece of negroid debris stains the moon-shuttered night as the mirror in the night sky is lost behind gray buildings and leafless woods, not found for good until I stand at the lonely corner, once teaming with enemy scum.
A trollish, weathered woman—who may have been white before she became homeless—wearing dirty clothes over pajamas, emerges from under a heap of blanket in the icy bus shelter and croaks, “Ex kuse me, sir. Can you spare some change? I put all mine in the bus.”
“No,” I say as I look for Eunice across the street, nervously pacing, waiting for the bus, her eye on two long shadows down the street, two shadows that never come into view. They are tall and male, a hundred yards off, fading into a side street.
I cross the street.
Eunice greets me, “Good evening, sir.”
I hold up an empty hand to her and she smiles, returning to her vigil.
The croaking troll sees this, takes Eunice’s measure in her knee high boots and Eskimo coat and then begins frantically to brush her hair. Knots of gray sooty hair can be heart breaking across the street. Her weathered scalp can be heard complaining of the hard usage. The woman then arranges her clothes more neatly, shakes out and folds her blanket, tucking it under her arm and crosses the street to ask me, “Do you have a light, sir?”
“No, I don’t smoke.”
She then walks up to Eunice and asks her for some change. Eunice shakes her head “no” and apologizes in a hushed tone.
The woman returns to me, “Sir, I got no money. Could you spare some change?”
Since she did bother to brush her hair, I reached into my coat pocket and found three spare quarters which I dropped into her hand.
She joyfully croaked, “I’m gonna get me some wader. That ‘ill taste good.”
She then scampers and hides behind the bus stop as two fat-headed Latinos amble across the empty thrift store lot across the street, toward Essex.
The bus pulls up.
I board and as I pay, the woman limps up unto the platform and asks the bus driver if she can board for seventy-five cents.
He, a large, kindly-mannered black fellow about my age, shook his head “no” and said, “Be careful stepping down, miss.”
As she stepped down she moaned forlornly, “Thank you, sir, and be careful you don’t end up like me. It’s cold out here.”