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The Kindness of Strangers

by Maria Francesca

So, I'm walking down University Avenue --
not strolling
not running
but going at a pretty good clip
because you never know
when the bus is going to be early
which is much worse than late.

So, yeah, I'm hiking down University Avenue,
minding my business
and pretty much everyone else's
because this is City Heights
and you want to keep an eye
on everything and everyone around you;
believe you me -
everyone around you is keeping an eye
on you, too,
if they have any sense.

Anyway, I'm heading up to the bus stop
when I notice a man in a shirt and tie -
a shirt and tie in City Heights?! -
and he's running like the cops are after him
past me and up the street
until he sees the seven bus
pulling away from the curb
a half a block away.
Then he trades the running
for trudging
and continues on toward the stop
until a police car shows up -
a pretty common thing in City Heights.
It pulls over
and the formerly running and more recently trudging man
opens the door of the patrol car
and gets in.

This is curious,
even in City Heights,
and gets curiouser
when the police car pulls up next to me.
The officer leans over
and says:
Hey - you wanna catch that bus?

This is also curious,
especially in City Heights,
and I don't even want the seven bus
but how often is this going to happen?

So I climb in the back seat
and Starsky hits the gas hard,
ignoring the red light at the signal
in favor of the one on top of his car.

The world is a blur
as we zoom past one bus stop
after another,
then one bus after another
and with the exception of
a few mumbled protests -
presented very politely indeed -
my fellow passenger and I are
silent but for the sounds
of sweat popping from our pores,
which could be heard almost clearly
over the blaring of horns
and screeching of brakes
and crunching of metal vehicles around us.

As the black & white approaches warp speed,
Starsky -
or Hutch or Sipowitz or Barney Miller
or whatever -
turns and smiles calmly
and comments on the weather
before reaching for his Starbucks cup
and taking a sip of jolt juice
that I feel certain he could do without.

Soon the bus I thought I would need
to get to work this morning
becomes a moot point
since we have passed my place of employment --
just a quick glimpse of windows and parking spots --
and my fellow passenger is crying
and begging to be let out
please, please, oh please -
all sloppy tears and wringing hands;

I am curiously calm
right up until the moment
the delivery truck slams into us
and

the alarm clock rings
and I shake my head
and marvel over my weird dream
before showering
and heading out the door
to catch the bus.

So I'm walking down University Avenue -
not strolling
not running
but going at a pretty good clip
because you never know
when the bus is going to be early
which is worse than late

when I notice a man in a shirt and tie
running like the cops are after him
past me and up the street
until he sees the seven bus
pulling away from the curb
a half a block away.
Then he trades the running for trudging
and continues on toward the bus stop.

He hops in when the kindly officer offers him a ride.
So do I.

10/15/2011

Author's Note: Definitely more of a story than a poem, and partially based on a true but much less exciting story.

Posted on 10/16/2011
Copyright © 2022 Maria Francesca

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