I got on the bus with my kids. I found two empty seats for them. I usually do a quick scan of the folks on the bus, I was a bit wary of the man sitting in the very back wearing a breathing mask on his face.
A seated elder woman said to me, “Ma’am, excuse me ma’am?” The woman was still dressed in her paper, two piece blue hospital outfit. “Do you have a quarter or some change, so I could get some coffee or something?” She sing-songed sweetly to me.
“Sorry, I just spent all my change paying the fare.” I mumbled and saw that around me a bunch of folks were covering their noses. I didn't smell her then, for me the smell was Baltimore bus, nothing unusual.
A man got on after me.
“Sir, excuse me sir. “Do you have a quarter or some change so I could get some coffee or something.” She held her hand out and the guy gave her some change.
She addressed everyone who got on the bus that way. Ma’am, miss, young man, sir. And when I sat down I smelled her. I imagined it was hard to shower in whatever situation it was that landed her in the hospital, white plastic id bracelet was still on her thin wrist.
The lady turned and serenaded a woman behind her, “Ma’am, ma’am, ma’am, can I get a quarter or something. Ma’am, ma’am.’ There were two women who were sitting next to each other and they both ignored her. I wanted to yell at the women. Just say something.
An annoyed woman in front of her told her to stop in an irritated voice. The woman did stop.
“You have enough change for coffee by now,” The woman spat at her.
“I need more money,” the elder said. The upset woman just shook her head in disgust. She mumbled something about her smell.
A man with sunglasses came in and the woman sang her blues song.
He said, “Why are you out of the hospital? How could they let you out?! You need to go back to the hospital.” He dropped some change in her hand and moved to the back of the bus.
I was looking so forward to getting off the bus into some fresh air, the smell was an entity in itself. My eldest looked like the smell was getting to her.
“We’re almost there,” I reassured her. My youngest was distracted with a book and was trying to get her sister to read to her.
I told the bus driver, “There’s an elderly lady back there…..”
The bus drive did not let me finish, She yelled to the elder, “Hey Miss, Miss, this is your stop, Misss!”
I shared my feelings of sadness with my oldest daughter. I wondered what happened to that elder that she had no one to go to in such a vulnerable time. Why did the hospital just release her? I imagined her as someone's grandmother, mother. She didn't ask the same person for money twice, so she wasn't that out of it. What happened?