I had only been in DC for about two weeks. Everything was new, fresh, and magic. There’s something about a new place and new people that makes everything feel like an adventure. Even the boring stuff, like getting a cup of coffee at your local coffee shop or getting your groceries. I was even excited about the public transportation. I’m a country girl. It can’t be helped. I was so content and nervous sitting on the bus. Happy to have a seat, grateful for this opportunity to live and begin. I was smiling like a fool.
This was odd for the DC commuter. Most of us sit pawing through our smartphones starting the work day early, checking email, or reading the news. Anything to get the edge to win the day. It’s complete silence except for the gears of the bus. People either not fully awake staring into their phone wishing it was a cup of coffee or thumb typing like a teenage pro, having started their day hours earlier with a run.
Everyone was all crisp and polished, ready to take on the world. It was summer so many men were decked out in their seersucker finest. Matching the pale blue pinstripes with pink or mint, and always with a bow tie. Women were dressed to match in pastel colored dresses, their jackets thrown casually over the edge of their purses awaiting the cool of their AC at the office. In honor of the summer, most women had their hair pulled up into a high power ponytail or crisply pulled to the side in a bun or tumble of curls. Any woman brave enough to wear their hair down had an elastic on their wrist, revealing the truth to come later that day. It was amazing to see, every person dressed similar to the other, but still completely their own individual. I smiled, completely satisfied with my choice to move to Washington D.C.
The bus came to a stop, and a woman hopped on. She could only be described as a hot mess. She was a complete contrast to the order of the bus. Her hair was slung back into one of the sloppiest ponytails I’d ever seen. That’s saying something, given my history of attending college classes with that girl. (You know the one I’m talking about, don’t pretend like you don’t.) Hugging her belongings to herself, she was sandwiching her stilettos between her chest and briefcase. Her heels kept falling out of her arms revealing that she’d misbuttoned her shirt severely. It also looked a little big on her too, like she’d recently lost some weight but hadn’t updated her wardrobe to match. She was completely breathless and panicked that her Smartrip card didn’t have enough funds on it for the commute.
The bus driver was kind enough to gesture for her not to worry about it and to find a place amongst the rest of us travelers. That was when she made eye contact with me. Honestly, it was my fault. If I had been doing what I should have been doing; which was getting my work day off to the perfect start on my technology, it wouldn’t have happened. Yet, part of me is so glad that it did. Why? Because we all need that someone, sometimes.
She sat down next to me, she was still breathing hard and took a few gulps of air before turning to look at me. I glanced back, smiling weakly.
–I’m sorry. I know. I’m. It. Just. Happened. You know?
I nodded. I did know. I’m never on time to anything, even when I try to be. It’s a problem.
–I just. Didn’t know. I mean.
She paused as I frowned. I had lost her train of thought. She looked out the bus window for a moment, then down at herself.
–Shit___Shit. Shit. Shit.
–This isn’t mine. It’s his. I must have grabbed it without thinking. I mean, who would own a lavender colored shirt, right?
I looked around the bus spotting at least three other men in a similar shade. Clearly she hadn’t noticed how popular it was. She had already started to roll up the sleeves, and was examining the lack of buttoning skills.
–He was a really great guy. So good, I was a fool to think that he was so good. I just. I just couldn’t help it. He was right there for the taking. And. It was great. It was so great.
She put her hand over her mouth trying to hold it together. She swallowed back her emotion, and started to tuck the shirt into her pencil skirt.
–We finally spent the night as his place. We’d always been at mine, and he knew it was bothering me. And it made me happy he was thoughtful enough to notice. But. She came home. She came home and I had to run. I had to get out of there. I can’t believe. I can’t believe he would do that. How could he do that to me? Do I look like a side dish to you? What the hell is wrong with me, that I can’t find a decent man in this city?
She looked at me earnestly with those watery eyes. I took a deep breath.
–You look like you could use a strong cup of coffee to me.
She burst into laughter. Everyone glanced at us before looking back to their email. We were behaving like summer interns, not working hard enough to stay long-term. Leaning back into her seat, she relaxed.
–There’s always a catch, right? He was so good, of course he’d already be taken.
She sighed, closing her eyes.
I completely disagreed with her. I didn’t get how she could be so complacent about it. I mean, it’s not like throwing a temper tantrum would help; but grouping that bastard in with the rest of the men in the world wasn’t right either. I’m sure everyone knows wonderful, upstanding gentlemen who honor their commitments.
–He wasn’t good at all. He disrespected everyone including himself.
She snorted in dissent, rolling her eyes at me.
–That’s just how they are. It’s just the way it is.
–I think that a good man will come along once you love yourself enough to let yourself be with that good man.
Her bottom lip started trembling. I panicked. This is what happens when I start talking to strangers when I haven’t had enough caffeine to know better. I say things that are completely unneeded. Words that are invasive and make assumptions about people, that I shouldn’t be assuming about.
–When do you think that will be?
I was too busy mentally chastising myself to hear her.
–When do you think that will be?
She smiled weakly. I smiled back.
–When you’re ready.