| By Aaron Harriss |
As I started the three-mile walk from my house to the bus stop a feeling of dishonesty nagged at me. I don’t use public transit. I don’t own a bicycle. I never even rode the school bus as a kid. Now I was supposed to spend the day riding the LYNX as a voyeur with a free pass because I somehow fell into the broad and self-important category of “artist”? Then present my interpretation of public transit, as if it warranted attention? Would you want to read a translation of Borges written by a student in their first week of freshman Spanish? No. So who gives a shit what I think? These are the thoughts that consumed me when the rain began to fall.
The rain here doesn’t represent any shift in story or character. There was no baptism. There will be no transformation. I just kept walking and sat at the bus stop, soaked to the bone like the rest of the poor souls on the bench next to me, waiting on a ride.
The bus arrived ten minutes late and I chose a seat in the back, positioned myself away from anybody that might feel chatty. I rode through a few stops. Stared out the window at people in their cars sitting in traffic, at others waiting for different buses to make them late for whatever it was they had planned. People filed in and out of my bus, the smell of damp clothes interrupted by fresh air for brief moments as they came and went. A mom with two small children–the older one helped her with bags of groceries, the younger followed behind, dragging along the mud-covered ends of her untied shoelaces. A gray haired, sun-worn old man that carried the bitter smell of coffee on his clothes and a Gideon Bible in the crook of his arm. A young woman wearing a pants suit and a Bluetooth headset. Their stops came, their lives continued, and others filled their seats.
I approached hour two on the bus, my thermos of coffee long empty, when Paul sat down next to me. Paul was a 32 year old from North Carolina, a veteran who had spent “more time in alien deserts than the Mars rover… and probably had a helluva lot more sleepless nights too,” though I knew none of this when he sat down. Paul and I spent a lot of time talking to each other that day. I took notes and listened. Eventually we shook hands and he got off the bus, on with his life.
I went back out a few more times after that and on two occasions had similar encounters to the one I had that first day with Paul. For my part in TrIP, I will be writing three separate pieces detailing each of these encounters. They will not be representative of any larger narrative, or even of the subjects themselves. They will only be a small glimpse into the lives of three people who happened to get on the bus and sit down next to me, as seen through the skewed vision of my own perception.