Some memories persist because they are demarcations of big changes. This isn't one of them. I think it's persistent—and it has persisted some time now—because I realized that what I was doing was strange. I reflected on its strangeness as it was happening. That hit the record button, and from there the tape just rolled.
I was taking a two-bus ride to get home from a discount grocery store on a Friday evening. I like this grocery store. There are other Grocery Outlets that are far more convenient to get to, but I just like this one. I transfer buses as I go through Capitol Hill, a place full of restaurants and bars. I get on a northbound 49, having exited an 8 on Broadway. This is where I reflect. This is not what most people at this place and time are here for.
A young man and young woman are already aboard the bus, or they get on at the next stop. They're behind me. I have the strong sense they're on a date, probably a first or second one. And they're talking about public transportation. It's some fairly specific stuff. They're talking about the change in frequency on the 67 bus, as a result of an expansion of a rail line. They both seem very well-informed. It's quite fascinating to listen to.
Earlier in my life—like in my teen and early twenties—this would have frustrated me. I would have thought something like who is this knucklehead guy and why is he living the life that I should have? I deserve better than to be single; I deserve to be having a conversation with a woman who shares this deep interest of mine. But by this time, I've disabused myself of this unfortunate notion. The fact that I am single is largely a consequence of a lack of effort in seeking relationships. Plus, single or not single doesn't need to mean worse or better. To some extent being single offers the ultimate freedom; it offers an ability to do what I want without question or deliberation. This is resonant as I am spending my Friday night taking a pretty weird-ass approach to grocery shopping.
At some point, their conversation dies down. The woman brings up a new topic: a regret. All summer an addled man has been standing at the corner nearest this bus stop yelling horrible things about woman who have had abortions. She angry at herself; she regrets not yelling something back at him.
By the lack of an immediate response I assume her companion is dumbfounded by this shift in topic. After letting the silence dwell uncomfortably, he brings up another transit topic. She doesn't have a response. Their conversation stays dead the remainder of the ride.
"You fucking guy," I'm thinking for the rest of the ride, "why would you do that?" Here's what I was thinking—a sentiment that does not just respond to the new direction of the conversation, but one that I felt sincerely:
Maybe you did the right thing in ignoring him. Maybe by having no reaction to the utter shit he was saying, you're helping plant that seed of doubt in his mind. He's a fossil, espousing beliefs from a dead age.
Maybe the next time you see him you do this. You look at him and make sure he sees you. And you obviously roll your eyes. Let him know that all the terrible shit he's saying will have no impact at this corner or on you—it's tired, it's obsolete, and it's just fucking sad.
Sitting on the bus, I'm proud of myself for coming up with this. This is so easy; how is that yutz in the seat behind me so bad at this? I'm fashioning myself as this Cyrano de Bergerac-like figure, effortlessly able to figure what to say in any conversation that would occur over the course of a relationship, but choosing to stay out of the fray.
When I made this memory, and when I recalled it in the immediately time thereafter, I found this reaction sincere. But when I go through it, sentiment by sentiment, it's so laughable now.