by The Cowl Editor on April 26, 2018
by Marisa DelFarno ’18
*based on real encounters
There was once a man who looked like your average man—blue jeans and a grey sweatshirt—but he was ridden with the mouth of a sailor, or a wannabe rebellious 13-year-old, despite little children being seated right near him. He was on the phone, and whoever he was on the other line with was really pushing his buttons because he was sprinkling out every swear word in the book. Every word. For at least 5 minutes straight. I guess no other words sufficed.
* * *
He sat across from me, his feet stretched out in the narrow, dusty aisle. He wore old sandals that were completely demolished. I was shocked he was able to walk in them considering their condition. However, seated within his sandals were probably the dirtiest feet I have ever seen. Long, grime ridden toenails, parading themselves openingly in the middle of the aisle. They extended approximately an inch and a half to two inches past his nail beds, fitting more to the definition of claws than nails. Much to my bewilderment, his nails were so long that they were curving, digging slightly into his skin.
I did not have lunch that day.
* * *
The guy with the claws was not the only person lacking any attention to hygiene. I found myself sitting behind a young, high school-aged kid with a canary yellow mohawk, reeking with the distinct smell of body odor and uh…urine. The noxious combination of the two worst smells in the universe was so bad but I felt like it would be very obvious and rude if I moved seats. I instead held my nose in my sleeve for the whole duration of the bus ride.
* * *
There were two men, sitting side by side. One distinctly looked like he was in his seventies, while the other looked exactly like the younger version of him. They both wore the same exact red skullcap, the same charcoal colored peacoat, and the same thick, Ray- Ban framed glasses. They looked like twins, but you could easily tell that one was much older than the other. When I first saw them, I wondered if their matching outfits were merely coincidental, but then I encountered them a second time, and you’ve guessed it: they were again wearing the same exact outfit.
* * *
He trudged onto the bus, holding his black blazer together with both hands. He swiftly paid and plopped himself on one of the couch seats across from me. Upon sitting down, he let it all out, his bare chest and gut. He had no shirt underneath his blazer. Just a layer of curled chest hair. Apparently, he was exempted from the “no shirt, no shoes, no service” policy, or the driver just did not notice or care. The lady sitting next to me, equally as dumbfounded as me, whispered in my ear, “Nothing surprises me on the RIPTA anymore.” I could not agree more.
* * *
She was roaring for all ears to hear. “First, they have chips on our cards. Next, the government is going to have chips in people’s heads! You watch. First the credit cards, then our brains!”
At first, I thought she was joking, but she kept repeating the statement as a means to emphasize, with her wide eyes conveying a sense of seriousness. She was not joking at all, nor was the man she was talking to laughing, but instead nodding his head in agreement. I still do not know if he was nodding his head out of fear, or if he actually personally agreed with her.
* * *
I snaked my way through the crowd and stepped into the line, waiting until it evened itself through the little doors of the bus.
Due to the amount of people there, it was taking a while. I looked at the bus itself and realized there was an ad for a local sleazy lawyer nestled on the side of it, with a humorous, Sharpie-drawn mustache. I chuckled to myself, but I looked above the ad and my expression completely changed. I noticed my own reflection cast by the bus window.
My hair, probably due to the wind, was an absolute mess. It was in knots, all frizzy and crazy like a witch’s hair. I was a bit taken back and almost horrified, but that was not the only thing I noticed. My face also had weather induced rosacea, red as a ripe tomato. And, there was more. My battered shoes were untied, waiting for my inevitable fall. My socks were also mismatched. Well, that is what you get when you forget to do laundry. And, my shirt had a stain on it, a residue of today’s lunch, on the one day when I decided to wear white.
And then, the epiphany hit me like one-thousand bullets. I have become one of them.