by Sanford "Sandy" Wilbur

Almost every work day from 1981 to 1994 I rode the bus - and later the MAX trains - the twelve miles from east Gresham into my office at Lloyd Center in Portland. There was lots of time to read and write. These are my thoughts on a couple of the people I rode with.

1. The Commuter

Sometimes I sit behind her on the train

But usually I see her from a distance
As my bus waits behind a downed railroad gate
While the "7 O'clock" sweeps by.

After two (or is it three, or four) years
I recognize that blond head of hair from any distance.
The person beneath it is not old, but not young either
Not beautiful, but surely not plain
Just... nice - pleasant - appealing.

I worried about her for months
when we first never met.
Did I know her? Surely this was someone
I'd seen before
And not just seen -- talked to, conversed, shared
a few personal moments with.

But where?
There didn't seem to be any possibilities.

Was it the blond young woman who rode the Halsey bus 
with me years before
When the detours at 82nd and the substitute drivers
used to make every trip to Troutdale a new adventure?
She had been going to Alaska to live, then. Did she come back?
Had she, like me, grown a little older
and just enough different that we didn't recognize one another?

Or was she just a look-alike for the late night TV anchor woman
with her pert blond pageboy haircut
and pert ingenuous smile?

Was it just a feeling - a something come and gone
A longing of some type that had nothing to do with
sex or lust or even needing to be a part -
Or did I really know her?

I saw a friend talking to her on the train one day,and they laughed together.I cagily asked the friend later who she was.Did she know her?No, just someone on the train for her, too. Someone with a nice smile and a friendly laugh. Maybe I could find out? she questioned.
No, no. Just someone I thought I might know.

She smiles at me occasionally after all this time
And we say a word or two - about the crowded train
or the thunderstorm
We know each other now, in the sense that we are
regularly, comfortably - expected.
I've never asked her name, or where she lives,
or if we do have a mutual past
Most of the wondering has gone by, now
She and I are just people on the train.

The crossing signal stops its red light blinking
and the barrier lifts
I turn my head slightly to watch the train go west
as we make our turn east into the station
In and out of my life one more time.
I smile.



2. Ron

The old lumberjack woods-worker.

No, actually, I think he works in a garage
But he still looks the first part:
Plaid shirt in all weather, old faded jeans
usually too low - below where his hips probably are.
Extra-shoulder-length hair, and Adam's apple-length beard
Boots, completely worn through at one toe.

Anytime he's on the bus a cigarette is in his hand
(Even for the 30 seconds between bus and train -
light up, puff, toss)
But you don't need to see it to know it's been there.
From three seats away, the reek of stale tobacco
hits like a mini-tsunami.
Certifiable, unredeemable nicotiniac.

Counterpoint: don't judge a book etc.
Rain, shine; good day, bad day, he is on that bus
Ready like the postman to discharge
his duty as mechanic, lumberjack, or whatever.
Clearly a city-bound, responsible on-the-job
commuter just like me and the other necktie-bound
"execs" who ride with him.

What is his job, really?
But more than what is his job I wonder what is home?
Does someone wait and (figuratively, at least)
sing about her baby taking the morning train?
Is she neat, petite - or another logger herself
with stringy hair and cigarette clothes?
What do they do on the weekends?
Does he shoot deer out of his bedroom window
(See, I still think of him as a woodsman)
and, if he does, is it in season or out?



North Country Journal


Is This My Land?

To the Writing It Down Homepage

Leave a Comment:

 © Sanford Wilbur 2023