Editor’s Note: Rider Eric sent in this diary on the 6-Parnassus, where he couldn’t help but notice a heart wrenching exchange on the Blackberry phone next to him.
It’s 6:30pm and I’m getting on the 6 bus to go home. Usually, on my way to work, I catch the underground, but coming home, unless I’m getting produce at the market, I like to get door to fucking door.
I nab my favorite seat-towards the back on the right just behind the back doors. I forgo my iPod for a change, look in my bag for a magazine I know I don’t have, check my watch, and slide down into the glossy brown plastic seat.
I look out the window as we pass Powell. There’s the standard crowd with pocket cameras and fanny packs circling around a group of street performers corralling the tourists like a herd. I think back to these two boys I once saw dancing for money on the F train in Brooklyn. One was moving to the beat of the other’s hands. As we approached the stop at Smith and 9th, they came around with a hat and people pulled out change without even looking up from the newspaper. When the doors opened, they ran to the next car. I watched them through the connecting car windows as the train went underground, the other one now dancing. I look back at the performers at Powell and shrug off the thought that I live in a town that wants to be a city.
I haven’t noticed it until now, but the guy next to me is fiercely thumbing away on his Blackberry. He’s young, unshaved, in ruffled jeans. I never understand why anyone would want a Blackberry if they weren’t a business man. It’s sort of like a 16 year old choosing to drive a Ford Taurus.
Did I mention how big and bright the fucking screen is on a Blackberry? So I can’t help but look over at what he’s typing, it’s practically in my face—“You look at things all wrong…that’s not what I meant at all”. He fires it off, drops the phone between his legs and stares ahead, wistfully.
30 seconds later, a buzzing tone comes from his lap. I try to make out what the message says, but he’s cradling the phone towards the window—unaware of me, but still hiding it. He reads it, lets out a sigh: this isn’t good.
He lays the phone back down, thumbs rearing to go, and fires off, “You might be the most callous person I know. Nothing I do is ever good enough…it’s not because”…he waits, the vertical line blinking, blinking, blinking, then erases back to, “I want to make you happy but you never seem to trust me.”
I see the response this time. “It’s not my job to explain things to you,” the other end of the line says. “If you can’t read into what I’m trying to tell you—maybe we’re just not compatible Alex.” His foot drives into the rubber mat under both our feet, hard enough to sit me straight up, but easily mistaken as a pothole bump to the other passengers.
I feel he senses me. I start looking at a girl in the front who I’ve been giving a few coy looks at while she hasn’t been looking. She sees me, angles her head towards me-our eyes meet-my face falls to grave and I stare straight through her.
As he’s volleying back and forth the next few rounds of messages, I’ve begun to lose control of my right knee. It moves in, slowly nudging my slightly less ratty jeans up against his. We touch in that way that you touch when you’re two people sitting next to each other on the bus-but that’s not what’s happening at all.
I know what’s coming: she’s going to dump him, over a text message, on a fucking bus, among an ocean of strangers-all of a sudden I feel my arm begin to lift up-oh shit, its heading for his shoulder! I stop it just before it crosses the no man’s land between us and recover sloppily with a sort of half running my hand through my hair, half checking for B.O. He doesn’t even notice.
We continue to ride together until I get off at Lower Haight. He has by now placed his phone in his bag; staring off past street signs, organic grocery stores, young skateboarders tearing up the sidewalk. I watch him as the bus pulls away: it’s the emptiest he’s ever seen the bus at rush hour.