Table of Contents - Vol. VIII, No. 2
Marje A. Dyck
Settling against the high straight-backed seat of the airporter, she relaxes into the swaying rhythm and friendly darkness of the ride back to city centre. She is alone. The vehicle is utilitarian, not a trace of luxury, a means of conveyance, of convenience for those who can't or choose not to ride in cabs.
A feeling of tranquility surrounds her in the warm, cavish interior. Two other passengers are on board; a man with a briefcase resting stiffly on his knees, and a woman clutching a large handbag and wearing a kerchief over her hair. She is only slightly aware of them in the pale flashes of light from passing cars. Her eyes focus on the gleam of lights along the highway and the glow that hangs above the city in the distance.
Going out in the little bus, she and her companion shared the ride with their driver, who looked as if he spent a lot of time out-of-doors. He reminded her of a high school gym teacher she'd once had. Slim, athletic, with a shock of silvery blond hair. When he sold them the tickets and gave her too much change, he apologized and murmured something about a long day. His eyes were that strange icy blue that you seldom see.
She and her companion had spent three days together, talking in restaurants mostly, catching up on each other. Sharing. She always thought of their relationship that way. He listened, he entered in, he focused on precisely what she was attempting to communicate. She did the same for him. Yet it wasn't so much what they said to each other when they were together. It was more often what they didn't say, but instinctively knew. That was the cord that ran through each meeting, the delicious feeling of being known, a feeling that turned into comfort when they were apart.
The ride out to the airport in the darkness, the faint sound of music from the radio, heard in spite of the loudness of the heater that cut in and drowned their voices, was warm and private. The easy, natural way of the driver touched her; then his withdrawal to the front of the bus, leaving them alone, made him seem like a fellow conspirator, part of the melancholy process of her companion's leaving. When she left the bus she smiled at him, turned back and thanked him. She expected the look of surprise and pleasure that enlivened his face, his tiredness vanishing as she spoke.
At the airport, she and her companion sat and talked in the little bar near the arrivals and departures gate. They laughed a lot, going over other times they'd met, aware of their time together now, measured in passing moments. He was struggling with some decisions about the direction his life should take, mostly because of the expectations of others. Later they headed for the departure gate, arms around each other.
The image of his broad shoulders, hair curling over his collar because he needed a haircut, stayed with her as she walked back and paid for her bus ticket at the little booth where passengers waited for the airporter. The same bus driver was lounging, talking with the ticket clerk. He nodded at her, she smiled back.
It it after midnight. Streams of light flow past as they smoothly round a curve and hum over a bridge. A thousand rectangles gleam from the faces of tall buildings. A sense of unity with the night, the intimacy of the little bus, thoughts of her companion flying away into the darkness, give her a feeling of timelessness. The driver stops at a downtown hotel, calls out the name. One passenger gets off, the briefcase carrier. At the final stop she sits until the other passenger, still clutching her bag, disembarks.
Stepping into the aisle as the light shatters the darkness, she moves to the door. The driver looks up at her and gives her a hand down. For a moment, they stand hand in hand, sensing some connection in the coolness, the brightness that emanates from the hotel's lobby. When she looks back, he's lighting a cigarette, watching her walk away.
© Marje A. Dyck