Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Essence of a Person

"You still work at that place?" the bus driver asked as I climbed aboard the 35 going home in Kansas City. "Yeah, it's that bed and breakfast down on 46th. I'll be moving soon, though." As the words left me I felt a twinge of sadness at the potential loss of my usual bus driver. I have a strange relationship with bus drivers. On the rare occasion that my schedule becomes routine I manage to enjoy the presence of a few of them. This particular woman is fun because she's always in a rush and I never see her at the same time. It's almost as if she's driving the bus just for me. Even in the morning the Max driver has begun to greet me with a knowing smile. Though with all the layers I have on I doubt he actually knows what my face looks like. One of my favorite drivers was the man who drove me from my farm apprenticeship to my store front apartment (where I'd quickly wash all the straw and chicken shit off of me and then bike in my booty shorts and heavy eyeliner to my serving job in KC's version of New York  -Power and Light District).

He picked me up without judgement. He was a quiet man. He was a light-skinned, lean man with a full, white, santa beard (sideburns and all) and bald head. I could never identify his race. Bold round facial features on his long face and fair skin always had me in a tizzy trying to figure it out.

I hadn't thought of him in a while but the kindness of the 35 bus driver brought forth my memories. He reminded me of a man I used to work with. Similar build, Santa beard and always smiling. I remember looking forward to seeing him at my not-so-fabulous job selling shoes at Sears. Everyone loved him. His energy. His conversation. He was an oasis in my corporate, commission/ no base pay desert. I used to think of him as my crazy uncle. He made the place feel like family. Then one day he announced he was leaving. He had cancer.

Everyone grieved his absence. The place wasn't the same.

The strange thing is while I think I may have an idea, I don't remember his name. How could I not remember his name? He clearly made an impact on my life. Then I thought about it some more. I don't remember his name. But I remember him. Who he was as a person (at least while working at Sears). Names are common. We share them with others. But we as people are unique. We have a soul. An essence. A gestalt -if you will. His essence was comfort and peace.

Much like the the bus driver's. He picked me up without judgement. I would wait for the bus on the corner of Blue Parkway and Eastwood (apparently a big meth area) with my dirt stained overalls, moldy chicken shit smells, taped up shoes and buckwheat hair. As I sat on the ground on the side of the parkway, people would stop and offer me money. At some point a guy offered me a slice of pizza. It took me a few hours to figure out why. I walked into Burger King famished and upon ordering some fries, the person looked me dead in the eye and said "you are wearing shoes, aren't you?" Took me a while to figure that one out, too. The bus driver on the other hand didn't pass me by. He didn't turn his nose up at me. He didn't shoot me dirty looks. One time, he even waited for me at the bus stop while I crossed the impossible Blue Parkway. He was wonderful and I loved him (as much as a human can love a complete stranger). We struck up a conversation at some point where I [finally] explained that I was working at an urban farm down the street. A few weeks later he told me he was transferring bus lines. I baked him cookies with some strawberries I got from the farm. The next day the new bus driver drove right past me.

Sometimes our smallest interactions will lead to a legacy we could never anticipate. We toil and struggle so that people remember our names but perhaps we should make it that they remember our essence.


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