The Soap Opera of MCTS Route 57, or Why I loved taking the bus to work
There were two teenagers, whom I named Goth Girl and Goth Boy, on the bus I used to take to work. I watched and documented for months as Goth Boy pined for Goth Girl.
On June 13, 2014, I took the bus downtown for the last time – I had quit that job. I was sad because I thought I would never know how the story ended.
Here is their story, as chronicled originally on facebook.
March 20, 2014
Goth girl on bus: You really shouldn’t tattoo your face.
March 26, 2014
The two Goth kids are arguing about whether it’s “po po” or “five oh.”
March 21, 2014
Goth girl on bus: I never got odd until we had to move.
April 28, 2014
The Goth Girl has laryngitis but the girl who soaked her shoelaces in bleach overnight (I wanted to tell her bleach doesn’t work on synthetics) is talking enough to fill the silent gap.
May 2, 2014
Goth girl on bus yesterday: black leather bustier, black leather miniskirt, black hose, black hightops.
Today: aviator sunglasses (it’s overcast), jeans, gray sweater, gold chain belt.
She is fun to watch. I just wish she would shut up.
May 2, 2014
I am very concerned about Goth Girl on the Bus and Goth Boy on the Bus, her boyfriend. Usually, he sits next to her with his arm around her, looking proud because he has a girl, and I can’t see his bagging pants or the long key lanyard hanging from his belt loop. I can still see his sweet face that can’t look tough despite his gear. He just looks like a nice kid.
Today, he got on the bus and walked right past her. Didn’t even say hi. He stood the entire ride, the lanyard swinging as the bus accelerated. She ignored him and talked to their mutual friend, Girl with the Weird Bangs. Did she break up with him? I hope not.
May 5, 2014
I can’t tell if Goth Girl on the Bus and Goth Boy on the Bus are back together. When I got on the bus this morning, Goth Girl was sitting cross-legged on the seat, chin in her hands, eyes closed, as she usually is. I am not impressed with someone who puts her feet on a seat in a public space, but what can you do? I did bump into her knee, but not on purpose. When you have your knee in the aisle, another person’s gym bag is going to bump into it.
When Goth Boy got on the bus, she picked up her bags and moved over to the window seat so he could sit. He did, without removing his backpack. His lanyard, which is about 30″ long, dropped all the way to the floor. It was the only color on him – he was wearing black jeans, a black jacket, a black hat with what appeared to be the dragon from the Welsh flag embroidered on it, but I only saw it from the side, and black tennies with white stripes. He got a haircut. It looks nice – very short.
Goth Girl was wearing a black skirt, black shirt, and a purple choker. No eye makeup today. No eye drama.
In the past, when he has sat, he has put his arm around her and they have leaned their heads together and stayed that way for the entire ride.
Today, they sat but did not touch, except for one moment when they leaned into each other and bumped. She fidgeted with her sunglasses and talked loudly about how she had been to see this amazing band on Friday and had started the mosh pit: “Dude! I didn’t go to the concert to sit and be lazy!”
He twisted his hands and adjusted his earpiece. They did not hold hands when they got off the bus. But they talked to each other.
The Girl with Weird Bangs was not on the bus today.
May 6, 2014
Goth Girl is not on the bus today.
May 7, 2014
Here is the Goth Girl on the Bus update du jour:
Goth Girl was in her usual place on the bus today, sitting cross-legged on the aisle seat. She did pull her knee up when I passed, perhaps remembering yesterday when my bag banged into her.
(Which was not on purpose – I try to be polite even to people who annoy me. Actually, I am more polite to people I don’t like than to people I do like. Maybe I don’t want the people I don’t like to know I don’t like them? But why would that be so bad? Just one time, it would be really fun to be direct with Mr T’s dad and say, “You are a mean old man who makes people cry and I DON’T LIKE YOU.” But I don’t. I am a chicken.)
She was wearing jeans, a light plaid jacket over which she later put a black down jacket (this is Wisconsin and it is still cold here), and a gauzy purple scarf shot with silver wrapped around her waist. It all looks good on her because she is 15 and when you are 15, everything looks good. I wish I had known that when I was 15. I also wish I had stayed out of the sun, but we lived in Panama at the time and I was on the swim team and in the sailing club, so avoiding the sun would have meant avoiding my life.
She was also wearing her wire-rimmed aviator sunglasses, even though it was overcast. When Goth Boy asked her about it, she answered, “Dude. I have like the most light-sensitive eyes IN THE WORLD.”
When Goth Boy got on the bus, she moved her bags – she has two, but they do go to an arts magnet school and she probably has supplies – and scooted over to the window seat.
He sat and as he sat, his green and yellow lanyard swung against the side of the seat, the hook clanging against the bus.
She spoke briefly in a very low voice, which was unusual because she is usually quite loud, yet droning. Then they didn’t talk, which is also unusual – she usually will not shut up. He fiddled with his iphone and earbuds and she looked out the window. When he would turn to look at her, she kept looking out the window.
I was sitting behind them a few seats. I almost got my regular seat across from them – the seat where the sun is not in my eyes and the heat vent is not blowing on me – but someone else was there when I boarded the bus. She almost disembarked to catch another bus, but after she asked the driver to “blow for that bus,” the other bus didn’t wait. She returned to her seat and I put my things down again.
So I couldn’t see their faces, but I could tell that they were not talking to each other. The Girl with the Weird Bangs was not on the bus today. When Goth Girl and Goth Boy got off the bus, she walked quickly ahead of him to join the Girl with the Green Hair.
May 9, 2014
OK. Goth Girl on the Bus and Goth Boy on the Bus, Friday edition. It was pouring down rain when I got on the bus. Goth Girl was sitting in her usual seat, cross-legged, scribbling furiously with a colored pencil. She was wearing a white blouse with ruffles around the neck, a black and white skirt, a black corset on the outside of the blouse, four orange bead bracelets on her right wrist, two silver bead bracelets on her left wrist, a long necklace with a purple pendant, purple hoop earrings, and an orange beaded hair tie holding her hair in a ponytail. She was wearing dark eyeshadow and had cat-eye eyeliner.
She sorted through a stack of index-card sized papers. I couldn’t tell what was on them. She had a fistful of colored pencils and kept changing colors to fill in something.
When Goth Boy got on, she scooted over but did not look at him. He said hi, she said hi. He was soaking wet because he did not have an umbrella. What is it with people who know it’s raining yet don’t carry an umbrella? We do have ways to keep the water off our bodies.
She maintained her cross-legged pose, which meant he did not have as much room to sit. He was not wearing a jacket today – it was warm enough yesterday and today to go outside without a coat, which has not happened since October.
He wore black jeans and a maroon t-shirt. I counted the keys on his key clip/lanyard. At least eight. Who needs eight keys? I have two – the house key and the car key. That’s it. What are all those keys for? Eight? Who needs eight keys?
He looked over at her but she kept her head down, looking at her drawing. She is a lefty – is that why she has only two bracelets on her left wrist?
The middle-aged white lady who was being comforted by the young African-American guy yesterday afternoon got on the bus. Her bag of pink sequins cut the rainy gloom a bit. It was overcast enough that Goth Girl was not wearing her sunglasses.
Goth Girl spilled her box of pencils on the seat – at least a dozen of them. Goth Boy quickly moved so he could gather them for her. She said something to him that I did not catch. I hope it was “thank you.”
Then they returned to silence, with her looking down and him looking at her hopefully every few minutes.
He put his arm around her! Yay!
Wait. No. He put his arm behind her to pull for the stop.
What is going on with them? If they are broken up, why do they sit together? If they are not broken up, why don’t they talk to each other? What is this limbo?
They got off the bus. She opened her umbrella and shared it with him. Maybe there is hope.
May 10, 2014
D and I were speculating about Goth Girl on the Bus and Goth Boy on the Bus last night. Did he cheat on her? Is that why she is being so cold to him?
I said that it looks like she really has the upper hand in the relationship and that he likes her a lot more than she likes him. So why would he cheat on her?
But stranger things have happened.
D told another person, who also got involved in the conversation, that Goth Boy was really a nice kid.
Which appears to be true but how can you tell? He is not a yeller. He does not glare. He does not seem to be the type of man who would make someone cry. He just wants to be in the presence of Goth Girl. He just wants her to look at him. He wants to put his arm around her and lean his head into hers the way he used to.
But she won’t talk to him. He can sit by her, but that’s it.
A detail I have left out that may or may not be relevant is that Goth Boy has bad acne on his cheeks. I look at his face and wonder if his mom has taken him to a dermatologist. He has all the underpinnings to be a very attractive man some day – he is tall and lanky and he just looks sweet, but bless his heart, that acne is hard. Can boys take accutane?
So D and I wonder if Goth Girl is punishing Goth Boy for something? Did she go to that concert alone to Show Him? Or are they only schoolyard sweeties? I had a boyfriend whom I mostly saw at school. We would go out behind the chemistry lab at lunch and neck. We could do this every day because we were in the Panama Canal Zone and the weather is always nice.
He gave me whisker burn, which I didn’t know about but figured out immediately when my mom asked, “What’s that rash on your chin? It’s looks like whisker burn!” My hand flew to my chin, covering it, as I said, “Oh, no – probably just mango rash.”
The next day, I told David – who ditched me right before the prom to go with the weird redhead from my PE class but I heard he spent the night in jail so hahahahaha – that he had to shave or I wasn’t kissing him any more.
Maybe Goth Boy and Goth Girl only see each other at school, except that makes no sense – they are both on the 57 bus line, so could easily see each other on the weekend.
I wish Girl with the Weird Bangs would show up again and maybe sit by me so I could ask her what’s going on.
May 12, 2014
She just scooted to the window seat in anticipation of Goth Boy on the Bus’s stop.
May 12, 2014
Goth Girl: “These sunglasses are perfect for indoors.”
May 12, 2014
GG: “I didn’t have time. I’m just wearing jeans and a hoodie.”
GB: “You look fine. “
GG: “I took a shower yesterday. It had been way too long for a girl not to take a shower. I am being European.”
May 12, 2014
GB is not fidgeting. GG is Chatty Cathy.
May 12, 2014
He just stroked her hair.
He is showing her photos on his phone.
And they are talking to each other!
May 12, 2014
GG: “Can you see my face at all with my hair like this?”
GB: “I can see your chin.”
May 12, 2014
GG: My mom is a huge black man in the body of a little Italian woman.
May 13, 2014
Goth Girl and Goth Boy were not on the bus today, which is why I cannot call them Goth Girl on the Bus and Goth Boy on the Bus, but they had an interesting conversation yesterday about Mothers Day.
(NB I almost slept in this morning, thinking I would go late to work after spending 2.5 hours on the phone last night with Australia, but then I thought, “No! I can’t disappoint my friends by not reporting on GGotB and GBotB,” but then they weren’t even there and I could have slept late.)
GG was saying that she was chastised on Sunday for not wishing her mother a happy mothers day and I sympathized, thinking that I, too, do not like Mothers Day, just as I do not care for Valentine’s Day and told Mr T a long time ago that I do not expect him to observe a holiday imposed on him from without. Valentine’s Day is fine for those who wish to observe it and I do not think less of anyone for doing it, but Mr T doesn’t like it and I don’t want to force him. It’s enough for me that he does the everyday things – cleans the hair out of the drain in the tub, changes the kitty litter, goes to Wal-Mart at midnight to buy and install a new battery for my car (which he did while we were dating). I don’t care if I get flowers.
I feel the same way about Mothers Day – it’s externally imposed and I am forced to participate not because I believe in it but because I love my mother and do not want her to be hurt that I am not doing it. But if I had my way, Mothers Day would not exist and people would just show their love and appreciation all the time.
So GG was saying she was chastised for not wishing her mom a happy Mothers Day and I thought, “Oh girl I feel your pain but really, would it kill you to tell your mom that you love her and maybe to spend a few bucks on a card? We all face situations we don’t like in life and we do them because standing on principle won’t change anything and it will just hurt people we care about.”
Then she said that she was going to say something, but by the end of the day, the day was already ruined so why bother? I hope she has had time to reconsider since Sunday and maybe tell her mom that she loves her and that she is sorry for not saying anything on Sunday because again, how does it hurt anyone to do that?
GB said that they went to his grandmother’s on Sunday and there were a bunch of relatives, including some people he doesn’t like. I can’t decide whether it’s better to learn at a young age that just because you are related to someone, it doesn’t mean you have to like them, or if it is better to have great relatives and enjoy your youth but then be shocked when you get married and discover that some people are real jerks.
I had a nice childhood with nice relatives, so married life has been an adjustment for me, as I had no practice as a kid being around mean drunks or passive-aggressive blind CC’ing emailers.
Maybe I will see GG and GB tomorrow. Maybe GB will do more than tentatively stroke GG’s hair. Maybe her hair won’t be covering her face. Maybe she will tell GB that she made her mom a card and gave it to her on Monday.
May 14, 2014
Goth Girl was On The Bus today. Sitting in my seat. My seat. I had to sit two seats behind her in one of the side seats, which meant that every time the bus lurched, I was thrown from side to side rather than from front to back. Side to side is much more uncomfortable than front to back.
Her hair was pinned back with a black leather bow. She was wearing black leggings with lace at the ankle, a purple knit miniskirt, and a gray hoodie. As usual, she looked great because she is 15 and at 15, everyone looks great, even the girls who think they don’t.
Goth Boy got on the bus. I saw him from the left and noticed that he has a hoop earring in his left ear. He left his earbud in his left ear so the right ear could hear what GG was saying. It might behoove him to remove both earbuds to concentrate on her fully. There is almost nothing sexier than getting someone’s full attention.
I couldn’t hear what they were saying very well. There was something about German shepherds and then something about unions – how unions protect you against discrimination and pay you when you’ve been injured on the job.
I should not expect a 15 year old to understand employment law, so I will not criticize her for being wrong on those issues, but honestly.
I could have heard more if they had talked when the bus was stopped, like the two minutes it took for the driver to help the passenger using the wheelchair get off the bus. (The wheelchair has to be locked onto the floor of the bus during the ride, so getting a wheelchair user on and off the bus takes a little time.)
But they talked only – she talked only – when the bus was moving. She looked straight ahead. He kept turning his head to her. Even though I could see only the back of his head, it was a yearning look, I am sure.
Maybe some progress? She was laughing and pulling away, saying, “Stop!” I couldn’t see what was going on, but was he tickling her or squeezing her knee? Physical contact! Maybe there is hope.
GB, get rid of the earbud. Let her see that she has your complete, undivided attention.
May 14, 2014
Saw my favorite bus driver, Gwen C, this afternoon. We always chat. She is the nicest lady in the world. She is the one who waited for me the day I was at the stop by City Hall that was actually closed and I hadn’t noticed because I was too busy trying not to freeze to death. I noticed about ten seconds before the bus was supposed to arrive that I was in the wrong place and an entire block away from the next place the bus really would stop, so I started running in the snow with my heavy coat and snow boots and gym bag and purse and the bus pulled up and then passed me and stopped way ahead on the corner. I thought I was going to miss it and be stuck downtown in the cold for another 30 minutes, but the bus waited. And waited.
When I got to the bus, out of breath, I saw it was Gwen driving. I thanked her for waiting and she said, “I recognized you all the way back there. Of course I waited for you.”
So she is my bud and I saw her today because I was on an early bus. I asked her if she ever drove GG and GB home. I see them only in the mornings – I have never seen them in the afternoon. Gwen drives an afternoon shift, so it’s possible that she might have seen them.
I described them and their situation – they had been together but now they’re not and it looks like she’s been punishing him – “Oooh, he’s in the doghouse!” Gwen said – but might be relenting a bit.
“Why do you think they broke up?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” I told her. “Have you seen them? We need more information.”
No, she has not seen them. But she wants to know what’s going on.
“You wouldn’t believe the things people tell me,” she said. “They get on this bus and tell me things about their lives and I just go um, um, um.”
“You’re like a priest,” I said. “You’re anonymous and safe.”
She laughed. “They just need someone to tell their troubles to, I guess.”
She will be on the lookout for GG and GB.
May 16, 2014
I got on the bus. Someone was in my seat – I couldn’t be too mad because it was my friend Liz, but I didn’t want to sit next to her because I prefer my own seat so I can spread out – and I had to sit a few seats behind GG. She was not glammed up today. Looks like she hasn’t washed her hair in a few days. She had a big black hairband holding it back, kind of a ’60s vibe. Baggy jeans with rolled-up cuffs, huge white hoodie. Sunglasses.
Girl with the Weird Bangs was in front of her and they were chatting, chatting, chatting, only I couldn’t hear them very well. I caught “reputation” and “I have a bad reputation” which of course made me very curious. Just how bad can a high school girl’s reputation be, especially these days when nothing is bad?
GB got on the bus. GWWB stuck her red-leggings-clad leg out to trip him. He laughed and sat next to GG, who had scooted over. GG said, “Hiiiiii!” in almost a “We slept together last night and now I am feeling a little flirty” way except I would guess they probably did not sleep together last night. GB was jaunty, but not that jaunty.
As soon as GB sat, he leaned into her and bumped her with his shoulder. Or maybe she did it first. Rats! I didn’t write down who did it first and I can’t remember! That’s an important detail, don’t you think?
He bumped her. She smiled and then she bumped him. He bumped her again and then she bumped him again.
Multiple bumps, you guys!
I caught bits and pieces of their conversation. She was claiming that just because someone jumps from 115 feet, it doesn’t mean he will die. GB challenged her. She said, “I can come up with multiple scenarios where he doesn’t die. He has a parachute. Or he falls into a truck full of pillows. Or into water.”
I wanted to interject that from 115 feet, even water will not cushion that fall, but how can someone who has probably never had the opportunity to jump off a high dive know that water can be very hard, even from ten feet? There are no diving boards any more, are there? Or very few. Do high schools even have diving teams any more? I was on the diving team. I was not very good, but all you had to do was show up to be on the team and I am good at showing up.
GB laughed. He said, “Or the person could open his jacket and swoop, like a flying squirrel.”
Oh they laughed and laughed.
Then – AND THIS IS THE BEST PART!! – he started tickling her again and she squealed, “Stooooop!” and she grabbed his hand and he grabbed her hands and there was HAND GRABBING!
Oh the flirting. I can’t stand it.
May 20, 2014
GB and GG not on the bus second day in a row. What’s going on?
May 21, 2014
Mr T: Are you going to sleep in tomorrow?
Mr T: But your call [with my company HQ in Australia] lasted more than two hours! You were on the phone past 8:15. Go in late.
Me: I can’t.
Mr T: Sure you could. Your boss doesn’t even get to work until 9:30.
Me: I can’t.
Mr T: Oh! You want to be on the same bus with Goth Girl and Goth Boy!
May 21, 2014
Goth Girl and Goth Boy were on the bus today! Where have they been?
GB had a new accessory – a neon lime-green plug in his left ear. It actually kind of suits him.
I could not hear a word they said today except when GG said, “And I was like, ‘holy shit!'”
But I did see GB rub GG’s shoulder for almost half a minute when he first got on the bus. GG did not seem to mind. She did not pull away. She did not tell him to stop. She let him. Even leaned into him a tiny little bit.
I started reading Anna Quindlen’s new book, so was mildly torn between reading about the problems of rich New Yorkers and watching the people around me. As I do not really care for the literary genre of The Troubles of Rich People in New York Who Have to Pay $40,000 a Year for a Nanny, it was easy to abandon the book and people watch instead.
Unfortunately, it became hard to see GG and GB because a few minutes after GB boarded the bus, a young man with broad shoulders covered by a thin white t-shirt, wearing orange tennies, and with shoulder-length braided dreads sat between us. I didn’t mind too much because I was fascinated by Dread Man’s hair. I don’t usually like dreads, but his looked really nice. About halfway through the trip, he lifted both arms, took a hunk of braids in each hand, and gracefully tied the braids together to form a crown on the back of his head. He looked like a black Santa Lucia from the back and lacked only candles in his hair.
In the meantime, I was blocked from hearing anything by the young woman sitting across from me who talked on her phone the entire time. I don’t know how she can hear anything with the other bus noise, but she must. Her toenails were painted black, as were two fingernails on her left hand. The other fingernails were unpainted.
I do not know if this is a new trend in fingernail painting, but if it is, you heard it here first.
May 22, 2014
Goth Girl and Goth Boy were on the bus today. She was wearing black and gray. He was wearing black and gray. He removed his backpack before sitting, which is not his usual practice. Why today? Why the change in habit? Did he finally think, before sitting, “You know, I might be more comfortable if I don’t have a backpack behind me, pushing me forward?” Who knows what happens in the mind of a teenager?
GG didn’t talk. She was scribbling furiously with her left hand in a green, spiral-bound notebook. GB looked ahead, listened to his music. He coughed, yawned. He was unshaven.
It was a companionable silence, not a tense one. The kind of silence I imagine that couples who have been married for a while have. The kind that couples who are not like Mr T and me have. Mr T and I do not have companionable silence. We have times where I am trying to tell a story and Mr T just wants me to get to the point already and I explain that the story is the point. We also have times where Mr T is talking about politics (ie, always) and I am trying to get him to stop talking about politics and reminding him that he tricked me by not telling me before we married that he would become this involved in politics.
However, we also do not have the silence described in the movie “Best in Show” where Jennifer Coolidge (aka “The Bend and Snap Chick”) is married to a very, very old man who doesn’t talk. “We can talk or not talk,” she says. “We have a lot in common. We both like soup.”
Where was I? So GG and GB sit quietly for about ten minutes and then he bumps her with his shoulder and she bumps back and they repeat. Then she scratches his back with her right hand and smiles.
They return to stillness, but 30 seconds later, GB reaches over and tickles GG’s leg and she laughs and grabs his hand.
We reach their stop. GB grabs one of GG’s bags and then lifts his backpack with the same hand and carries both items off the bus. Gallant.
May 23, 2014
GG and GB were not on the bus today. Almost nobody was on the bus today. The big guy in the suit who talks on his cellphone most of the ride and who uses a wheelchair that he backs out of the bus when we get to his stop was on the bus this morning. He was also on the bus this afternoon when I left work early on the 2:14 bus. I don’t know if he usually leaves work at that time or if he, too, was cutting out early for the long weekend. I don’t remember seeing him in the afternoon before.
The Middle-Aged Lady with the Pink Sequin purse was on the bus this morning. The two guys in their mid-30s were on the bus. One of them reads the sports section of the paper and has shared it with the guy behind him before; the other reads his kindle.
That was about it. I guess a lot of people started their weekend early. The only reason I took the 7:14 bus was in hopes of seeing GG and GB. I don’t know what the deal is when they are not on the bus. Are they skipping school? Maybe they have some kind of flexible schedule.
I thought the Man with the Braided Dreads was on the bus today. A man with broad shoulders boarded the bus but sat close to the front. (Because there were a ton of empty seats up front. I never sit up front – I need to be on the side opposite the sun so I don’t look into the glare and I need to be in the back so I am not under the vents – there is either hot air or cold air blowing out of the vents, depending on the season, and I don’t like sitting in the wind. I get a little cranky when someone is in My Spot.)
Anyhow, this man sat up front. I wasn’t wearing my glasses, so all I could tell was that he had very nice shoulders and he was wearing a wool cap over what appeared to be braided dreads. I squinted but still couldn’t tell. I finally put on my glasses and then discerned little braids coming out from under the edges of the cap, not the nice, thick braided dreads I saw on Wednesday.
Which was fine because then my question would have been, Why would you stuff such nice hair under a cap? Like I said, I don’t usually like dreads, although the young woman who works at our library has nice long waist-length dreads (and she is white and I NEVER like dreads on white people because the only white-people dreads I have ever seen look dirty), but this guy’s dreads looked really good. I just wanted to grab his hair and squeeze.
I wouldn’t, of course, because that would be battery and also because that would be rude. And just weird. But I have been thinking about those braided dreads since Wednesday and just want to know the story behind them.
May 24, 2014
GB and GG not on the bus second day in a row. What’s going on?
June 3, 2014
GG and GB were on the bus yesterday. The first thing I noticed when I boarded was that GG had cut her hair! It was a little longer than shoulder length and now is is short – a little shorter than a Dorothy Hammill. It is cut up in the back but a little longer in the front. It is very cute. She had two little purple barettes securing it on her right side.
I took a photo and posted it here, which prompted a few early-rising friends to ask why I had changed my policy about posting photos of GG and GB when I had previously said I wouldn’t. I defended myself by saying that you really couldn’t see her face, but I decided that Holly and Dean were right and I took the photo down. It was too invasive.
It is not too invasive, however, to write about them.
So. GG had her short hair. She was sitting cross-legged in the aisle seat, as usual, chin in her hands. She was wearing a purple t-shirt to match the purple barettes. Two wood bead necklaces and one silver chain. A black miniskirt over black leggings. Fingerless purple lace gloves, undoubtedly an homage to Madonna, who is old enough to be this girl’s grandmother.
Wait. Is she? Madonna is what, 53? And this girl is 17 – not 15, as I had thought. Yes – if Madonna had had a baby at 18 and that child had a baby at 18, this girl could be Madonna’s granddaughter.
I bet Madonna shudders at the idea of being a grandmother.
I am a step-step grandmother, which is an odd state, because I don’t feel old enough to be a grandmother but I AM old enough to be a grandmother. My best cousin is nine days older than I am and she has two little grandchildren.
I have three step-step grandchildren, so by the calculus used by the indigenous women I worked with in Chile, I win.
That was always the first question any of these women asked me: How many children did I have?
These women were illiterate and lived on subsistence farms, but they always won because they had children and I did not. They felt very sorry for me indeed.
For the record, I have never cared about having children, but I am delighted to have step-step daughters and step-step grandchildren. It’s all the good stuff with none of the hard part.
Where was I? Oh. Goth Boy got on the bus. Still unshaven. I wonder if he is growing a beard. It’s a little late in the season for that.
He sat. They talked about their weekends. I guess they don’t see each other on the weekend, although they could: they are both on the bus line. They could just take the bus to each other’s house. Why don’t they?
I didn’t hear much of what they said because they don’t talk while the bus is stopped, only when it’s moving and noisy.
There was no shoulder bumping. No tickling. No hand grabbing. But neither was there tension.
June 4, 2014
Got on the bus this morning. No Goth Girl. So no material for the day.
OR SO I THOUGHT.
A few stops later, Goth Boy got on the bus. No Goth Girl. I have never seen him when she is not on the bus.
And then HE SAT NEXT TO ME!!!
Unfortunately, he was a little bit stinky. He needs better deodorant and could probably wash his t-shirt. And – this sounds really mean but it was true – his breath was a little bit bad. I suspect he rolled out of bed, threw on his clothes from yesterday, and walked out of the house without bothering – or having time for – with the things that the rest of us feel compelled to do as grown-ups: we take a shower and brush our teeth not because we like to do so but because we fear ridicule and the impact to our careers. Some people, of course, are so good at what they do that they can be horribly ungroomed, but the rest of us are pretty fungible and must conform to the non-optional (mostly non-optional) social conventions.
I sat reading my book, wondering what to do. Should I put myself in the story? A good reporter doesn’t do that.
But I am not a good reporter. I am not bound by those rules.
I put myself in the story.
Me: Do you not have school every day?
Me: Sorry. I’m nosy. I notice who is on the bus and who is not. Sometimes you are on and sometimes you aren’t. I just wondered if you have school every day.
GB: On Tuesdays, we have classes online.
Me: Oh! And I have never seen you on the bus before without that girl.
Me: She is very cute.
GB: We’re just friends.
I could swear he said this sadly. He was not smiling when he spoke. I am not that great at reading body language, but I guess I am better than some people. My boss started having weekly meetings with everyone in the office. He told me how much everyone loves the meetings.
I answered, “Are you kidding me? They HATE them!”
“How can you tell?” he asked.
I answered, “Because half of them sit there with their arms crossed and won’t give you answers other than ‘fine’ when you ask how their work is going. Two of the people don’t even sit at the table, even though there is room. They sit at the chairs against the wall. You cannot have everyone at the table unless they are literally at the table!”
He seemed perplexed, but this is the same guy blesshisheart who on my first day of work, when I moved to the conference room because my desk was right next to the radio, turned the radio off and then told my new co-workers that I didn’t like the music. This was after he had asked why I didn’t just turn it off.
“Because I do not want to be the new person who comes in on Day 1 and tries to change the culture,” I said.
Yet he still turned the radio off. And blamed me.
“Do you realize what you did to me when you turned the radio off and told people it was because I didn’t like it? It took me months to recover,” I said.
He seemed surprised.
So maybe I am not so bad at reading body language after all. I could be a lot worse.
GB: We’re just friends.
Said sadly. Without a smile. He likes her. She does not like him back. I want to tell him that it wouldn’t hurt to bathe and wear clean clothes, but that probably wouldn’t help him with her. It will just help him with other girls. If the chemistry is there, it’s there, even for a slightly stinky boy. Stinky is ephemeral. She just doesn’t feel the same way about him that he feels about her.
Me: Hang in there. Nice guys do win in the end. They do.
June 9, 2014
Were you guys wondering if I saw Goth Girl and Goth Boy today?
Well, I saw Goth Boy. Goth Girl was not on the bus. Is she skipping class this near the end of the year? Bad move, GG. Or maybe not. I never once skipped class in high school but I know people who did and they turned out just fine.
However, I did skip class plenty in college and that didn’t end so well for me. Thanks to Alan for picking up my differential equations homework to turn in, but if I had just gone to class with him, I, too, might have a PhD from CalTech instead of just an MBA. Alan went to class. I did not. You do the math. (Because apparently, I was incapable of getting up early enough to do so.) After that semester ended, I changed my major to English.
So skipping class can have an impact on your future. I would be far more employable today with an engineering or science degree than I am with an English degree. Let that be a lesson to you, anyone who wants to major in the liberal arts. It’s super fun to major in English – you get a degree for reading great books and then writing what you think about them and sometimes, you become a New York Times bestselling writer, like Jeff Abbott, but most of us English majors languish in obscurity, hoping for a 401K and dental.
Goth Girl, get your butt to class.
Goth Boy, on the other hand, was not skipping class. He got on the bus and sat across from me. I caught his eye as he sat and we did the, “Hey fellow bus passenger” silent nod of greeting, but then I couldn’t catch his eye again.
I tried, believe me. I wanted to talk to him. I wanted to engage him and ask what he was going to do on summer break. I wanted to ask him what he was listening to. But he just stared off into space, perhaps worried about the weird middle-aged lady staring at him.
I also wanted to gently suggest that he should wash his clothes and take a bath, but I don’t think there is a way to deliver that information kindly to a stranger. Either he doesn’t know that he is smelly, which is bad enough, or he does know and he is in a home situation where resolving the problem is not easy.
I want to know why his mom and dad don’t say, “Son! Go take a shower! Throw those clothes in the wash!”
But then, I come from a family where my parents made sure I had clean clothes and that I myself was clean. Maybe he has bad parents. Maybe nobody washes clothes at his house. Maybe they don’t have a washer and nobody will take clothes to the laundromat. I don’t know.
I almost wanted to call Child Protective Services to report child neglect, just because of the smelly clothes and body. Then I noticed a tattoo on his lower right arm.
According to wikipedia, which we all know to be an accurate source of legal information, it is illegal to tattoo anyone under the age of 18 in Wisconsin, even with parental consent. This was not a new tattoo. I don’t think he is over 18.
If my kid came home with a tattoo, I would hit the roof. I would especially hit the roof it is was in a state where tattooing minors is illegal.
I get the feeling that nobody is looking out for this poor kid. It makes me sad.
June 11, 2014
Goth Boy report du jour. Goth Girl not on the bus. AGAIN. Where is she?
Goth Boy got on. I couldn’t tell if he was wearing his usual t-shirt because he had a sweatshirt on over the t-shirt, with the hood of the sweatshirt pulled over his baseball cap because you sure don’t want your baseball cap to get wet.
NB Am I the only person in the bus system who understands the function of an umbrella? Because I am often the only person I see using one in the rain.
GB got on, but then walked right past my seat. I caught his eye and nodded and he nodded back. I wanted him to sit next to me so I could interrogate him, but he did not. He is a shy fawn from the forest, a scared wee mouse hiding under the chair. He will bolt if approached too quickly. I must gain his trust.
Perhaps I should bring treats on the bus: a handful of cookies, a slice of pizza. What entices a teenage boy? Other than teenage girls, of course.
I wanted to ask him where GG was. I wanted to suss out his living situation. Casually – So? Do you usually take the bus? Or do your parents drive you to things? What sports do you do? Oh – baseball? Did your dad teach you to throw?
I would gain his confidence by opening up to him first, though.
“I had to do this stupid team building thing at work,” I would say. “The woman was sooooo nice but she talked about how water picks up the emotion written on the test tube. I wanted to tell her that our CEO has degrees in chemistry and physics and even though we should pray for him a lot, he is not stupid. I myself got an A in college physics – albeit self-paced physics – and am pretty sure that water does not change its crystalline structure depending on the emotional state of the people around it.”
He would laugh at the Wooo-wooo!-ness of it all and then I would admit that despite the emotional water and then the three minutes of silent deep breathing that this woman turned out to be a fabulous facilitator who totally called the CEO on his bullshit and that I have already connected with her on LinkedIn. “KnowwhatImean?” I would ask him.
Again, he would laugh and say, “Man I HEAR you!” as he shook his head at the weirdness of it all.
Then I would tell him how boring it is to sit in meetings from 8:30 to 5:00 and the stress of not knowing if the meeting will actually end at 5:00 so you can make the 5:11 bus and saying something about it to the CEO, who snaps, “It will take how long it takes,” which makes you want to say back, “Dude. I am not emotionally invested in this company the way you are. I am here for a paycheck and even that is not enough to keep me around right now.”
He would say, “Tell me about it! Remember high school and sitting in class all day when all you wanted to do was wxyz?”
I would grin and say, “Well, wxyz was not on my agenda when I was in high school, but I read a lot of fiction, so can well understand.”
Then he would sigh and say, “What’s THE DEAL with teenage girls?”
I would say, “Dude” (not really, because I don’t say “Dude” unless I am mocking someone with a limited vocabulary), “Dude, all I can tell you is that it gets better once you are out of high school. Do you really want the best years of your life to be right now? No you do not. You want to know that things get better, not that they go downhill from here.”
He would say, “But I just want to take her out to dinner.”
Then I would say, “OK. Here’s a plan. Don’t laugh! Here’s what you need to do. You need to take a shower and shave and put on a clean shirt. It can be a concert t-shirt, but it needs to be clean. You need to put your iphone away. You are going to give her your full attention. Then you are going to – DO NOT LAUGH! – buy some flowers. Four dollars at Sendik’s. You are going to go to her house, ring the bell, introduce yourself to her parents, then ask for her. Then you are going to say, ‘I would like to take you on a date.'”
By now, all the blood would have drained from his face.
“Women love it when men put their ego at risk,” I would say. “She might say no. She might say yes. If she says no, I promise you that 20 years from now, she will be telling her friends about the amazing guy who slew the high school version of a dragon to ask her out. Twenty years from now, she will be saying, ‘What ever happened to Goth Boy? I sure hope I see him at the reunion.’ And then when you do, when your skin is better and you stand up straight and dress sharp and have your own business, she will rue the day she turned you down. You will be gracious to her, of course, but the 20 years from now version of Dakota Fanning will be tugging on your arm, saying, ‘Sweetie, the Rolls is double parked.'”
I see that happening. Do you?
June 13, 2014
The last time I saw Goth Girl and Goth Boy. I took the photo above.