NHT's Writing Desk

  Stranger on a Greyhound

Waiting at the Hyannis station for the 1:20 to Boston,
I suddenly became aware of an older woman across the way watching me -
not a comfy situation for any twenty-something, let alone this Scorpio rising, to be stared at.
Few were going to Boston so when the bus arrived, 
i'd grab a double seat, take the one by the window and fill the other one with my stuff –
i did not pack a chit chat mood for this trip to the other side of the state --
in fact i did not want to be making this trip at all, ever,
and especially, not to this memorial Mass
(Catholicspeak means: no body = no funeral ) –


the deceased was my love, and for weeks i’d been hovering,
somewhere
(i hadn’t yet earned my medicine feather to know ‘where’ that was) .
subsisting only on strawberry koolaid and infrequent bagels --
driven by an unseen force,
my as yet unrecognized medicine instinct 
sought to defy reality by conjuring an amnesia reunion-type scenario ... 
i didn't know it at the time, but i was being taught visualization,
and i practiced until it was near-perfect, while i looked for him everywhere
hoping to spot the 
back of his head because i'd know him instantly ...

“Is this seat taken?”
i turned from the window to see the lady starer from the station ...
dumbfounded, uncomfortable, inside my head Scorpio rising screamed, 
of course, it’s ‘taken,' you idiot! –  can’t you see my stuff?
but gracious vocal chords censored the outburst and replied more congenially,
“No, of course not."
i relocated my pack and stuff under my seat.


The woman slid a well travelled overnight bag into the space above 
and settled in beside me with a magazine that remained unopened on her lap ...
Keeping watch out the window, i yet felt her anxious willingness to engage.
A time or two we made accidental eye contact and i smiled back 
but i was thankful mourning body language easily erects walls

Even still, persistence beckoned and finally, she spoke.
“Y’know,” she said, “i realize i was staring at you in the station,
and i wanted to apologize – it was very rude.”

i shrugged.  “It’s okay.”

She went on.  “I couldn’t help myself.
You seem so familiar to me, and I’ve been trying to place you.”

This turn in conversation intriguingly promised a welcome distraction
from sorrow’s self-imposed exile.  
I turned to her interested.  
“Really?’
Nodding, she asked, “‘You live locally?” 
My turn to nod.    "Just the past month or so, yeah,” i answered.
“Whereabouts?”
“…off the airport rotary”

At that her interest piqued and added a lilt when she said, "Oh..."
Suddenly she was listing  stores and such where we might’ve met, or she might’ve seen me,
but alas when our circles did not intersect, silence descended and reigned more; 
and although i was glad to resume watching out the window,
her intense interest was palpable, and i grew uncomfortable.

After a short while, she tried again…
“I love to travel," she said lightly.  "I’ve been planning this trip for months -
 a big family reunion for my nephew in New Jersey; his First Holy Communion this weekend,"
she said with an understatement belying her northeastern Catholic roots.
"He wants me to be there."

Feeling only slightly sorry that i honestly had nothing to say to that,
i nodded and smiled then turned back to the landscape and watched it pass by,
i thought about 
what such a family like hers must be like -
to have an aunt who would travel hundreds of miles 
just to see you make your First Holy Communion.

Suddenly this lady next to me seemed different ...
in spite of myself i looked over and smiled which she returned
and then asked me innocently enough, 
“And you? Where are you going?”

More pointed than poisoned, her question's sharp unexpectedness cut my breath,
and to my involuntarily and obvious reaction, she responded quickly, 
“I’m so sorry, dear, you don’t have to answer – I don’t mean to be nosy” –

But sporadic words were sounding off before i knew what happened –
“to the mountains,  a memorial mass, fiancé … plane crash.”

Her demeanour changed abruptly.  “A plane crash?”

“yes.” 
…for gods sakes, admonished Scorpio, don’t start crying!

“Do you mean the accident off Monomoy Island?”

“Yes, that’s the one”  … hold steady

And that’s when the woman gasped, then spoke slowly. 
“I know exactly where i’ve seen you...in my bedroom!” 

At once on red alert now with this stranger, i cocked my head at her.  
“Excuse me?”

She nodded slowly, apologetically, explaining with a quick urgency
as if she stopped, 
she wouldn’t be able to start again.
“That night, my husband is the manager of the Hyannis Airport,
and that night he was working that night, and he
 phoned to say he’d be home late.
Before i went to bed, I prayed a rosary for those lost and their families.
When i finished," she paused, "you appeared in my bedroom ...”


 

Anyone else might've thought this woman nuts – not me – 
instead i studied in her face the look of questioned disbelief
and found myself thinking about that night and those thirty unaccountable minutes
which had been causing particular consternation for me …

Exactly at 11:00 that night, quite outside of habit, i’d inexplicably fallen asleep,
and more curiously, awoke promptly at 11:30 - 
and even though at the time i recognized how very odd it was
and very unusual enough in itself
(again, with no medicine feather, youth flies blind),
it'd take another few days for me to realize,  had i stayed awake, 
that i'd've heard about the crash that night on the 11:00 news –
but since i’d fallen asleep, i didn’t find out until the next morning …
and that was what had been eating at my soul ever since,
that when the veil had dropped and my love stolen,
that i did not know for so long

The woman's eyes shone with the battle between faith and reason -
in the search for understanding required to make peace 
between that which the intellect says,
and that which the heart knows.

She was speaking again, nodding at memory's clarity focussing.  
“…i remember ... the news was on when it happened, when i saw you...”



NHT
1987, 2015



        related reading: "cracks in the universe"
                               "the birthday"      
                               "faces"