Thursday, February 11, 2010

Two Conversations on the Bus

Sitting on the bus today, I heard two women sitting very close to me. I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but there was no avoiding it. They were strangers to each other, but both started speaking candidly about their lives. About the men who had mistreated them. About the ache of being alone and missing someone to share life with.

Both women spoke fervently about the role that alcohol and, to some extent drugs, had played in the destruction of their happiness. The men didn't know when to, or couldn't, stop drinking. Yelling led to hitting and verbal and emotional abuse. The women, too, were in the vice grip of the drink. One of them joked that she wished she could want exercise as much as she wanted to drink.

They were near tears by the time one of them had to get off the bus. Clearly, they had lived through a lot and were in a rebuilding phase of life. Trying to put back together the pieces of their shattered dreams.

Now it was quieter on the bus, and I was only a few stops from home. Without the two women talking next to me, I could hear some young people, probably high school aged, talking in the back of the bus. They, too, sounded like strangers just getting to know each other. Their conversation was different.

Mostly, I could hear one fresh sounding voice above the rest. You know what I mean when I say "fresh"? I can't think of a better adjective. He sounded young, and naive. He sounded full of optimism. There wasn't a lot of braggadocio in his voice, nor any of the world-weariness that creeps into the voices of people who've seen really hard times.

I didn't catch a lot of what he was saying. But the snatches that I heard were things like, "Yeah, they try to scare you so much about alcohol." "Have you tried vodka?" Laughter.

I wished I could yank the pull-cord and stop the bus and run back to the woman who had just disembarked and bring her back to talk to these kids.

I suppose there is no teacher like experience. I wish it didn't have to be that way.

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