My friend on the bus with her newborn son, she tells me she just ran into the father of the child and they sat only inches from one another without acknowledgment. She tells me this was awkward, but I can tell it was upsetting and as tough as she is, she’s a bit rattled. A few minutes later and we tell her goodbye and I sit and look straight ahead out the steamy bus windows as much as I can. The diesel smell makes me ill. People smile at us a lot, perhaps because my children are cheerful and beautiful, perhaps because it is unusual to see a mother and school-age kids riding at this hour, perhaps it is simply because many people are having a Good Day today.
The bus fills up gradually and it lumbers through the wet grey streets it seems I’ve never not known, and after what seems like a long, long time, but a peaceful enough ride, we arrive at the grocery store. I pick up: red leaf lettuce, cucumber, mint, carrots, beef, rice noodles. Nels gets a complimentary cookie for himself, his sister, from the bakery. The children are hungry but we’ll have to wait until home to eat. We pack our groceries in my backpack and I carefully allocate things so the lettuce won’t get bruised, then heft the bag onto my shoulders and step out into the cold.
We walk several blocks along highway traffic and the rain has set in in earnest. Into the health food store and pick up the teas Ralph likes, along with fresh yeast, ten times cheaper here than anywhere else. Packed away and back outside and now the rain is horizontal into our eyes and the children suffer as we walk about a half mile, a little less, to the bus station. Phee puts up her collar but Nels falls behind and cries out. We pass the dancing Payday Loan employee, dressed as a Statue of Liberty a young man wearing a dazzling smile, even in this weather, but I am cold cold cold.
On the bus and even with the stench of fuel I am feeling relieved. I am cold, my body so cold it is tired simply from being cold. The kids are cheerful and have kept up their wrestling and singing and most of the time on the bus or on foot Nels has been holding my hand.
I get home and put my hands in hot dishwater and I’m a special kind of exhausted. I make a pot of hot tea for my husband and put it in the oven, after preheating then switching the oven back off. The cut of beef is cheaper than past cuts but Ralph transforms the rest of the ingredients into a delicious meal and we fold clothes and draw the curtains and a friend stops over to visit,
and Phee & I will finish watching the documentary on American whaling tonight,