Tabatha Deans

Bringing Integrity to the Written Word

Jesus on the 0 bus

I haven’t been on the 0 bus for a while…

I was listening to the wedding list songs on my iPod while I waited for the 0 bus at the Englewood Station, making my way home from work on a Friday afternoon. A man approached me and I checked him out closely. He had four or five bags he carried well, his pants were dirty but his boots were sturdy and he wore a well-worn leather jacket with a patch boasting some sort of military service.

I watched him as he unloaded all his gear onto the bench next to me. He stood up when he was done rearranging his belonging, which I was sure was everything he owned. Obviously homeless.

“Good afternoon Ma’am.” His smile was genuine and revealed the lack of front teeth. His hair was long and mostly gray, but some parts were still red–the exact red of my father’s hair.

I smiled and said “Good afternoon.”

We engaged in pleasant conversation and I learned he was an Army Ranger, and considered himself a soldier, rather than homeless, and he was on a mission. He was on his way to do his laundry then on to see his daughter and grandchildren. We boarded the bus and I sat one row back, as he filled the handicap space with his bags.

Throughout our conversation he said two unique things that touched me.

First, he said the kids are always first. He used some of his disability money to help his daughter and her children, but said he was okay because payday was only a few days away and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Second, we talked about being teased as kids for having red hair, and he recited a taunt that is very vulgar, that I knew well because I had heard it often as a child, but had never met anyone else who had been the subject of the taunt. He never asked me for money, just seemed to enjoy my conversation.

As we neared his stop I took a little cash from my pocket and scooted over next to him so no one else would hear me.

“I don’t want to offend you, but if you would take this to get you through until payday I would feel blessed,” I said, using a word my mother told me would universally make people feel better.

He choked up when I handed him the cash.

“Are you sure?” he asked, tears welling up in his eyes.

“Yes, please.” I said.

“Well, I, Uh, here,” he said through his tears, and he reached up and clutched some sort of talisman on a string around his neck. I don’t know if it was a cross or some kind of rock, but he held it to his lips, bowed his head and began praying. For me.

“Oh, okay,” I said, when I realized what he was doing. I sat silently next to him, I’d seen stranger things on the 0 bus.

“God, please bless this lovely lady, keep her safe and don’t allow any harm to come to her. Amen.” He kissed the talisman and thanked me again as he headed off the bus.

I was touched. He had nothing to give, but he used up some of his prayer requests for me.

His name was Glenn.

It gets better. Or perhaps worse, depending on how you look at it.

A few stops after Glenn got off the bus, a young man got on. His pants were hanging off him, he was bald and had tattoos in a script I didn’t recognize above each eyebrow, as well as on his neck. He had a serious look about him as he scanned the bus for seats, and being courteous I moved my bag off the seat next to me since the bus was full.

He sat down next to me and we sat awkwardly in silence for a few minutes, then he struck up a conversation in a quiet voice. He spoke in short sentences, and his eyes were dangerously calm. I tried not to be intimidated by the tattoos, but after a few minutes of talking to him I got a bad feeling. I felt a calm evil in him, and and tried to be polite, but I got the feeling that he was, at that moment, deciding whether or not he would hurt me today.

My stop couldn’t come fast enough, and finally I excused myself and squeezed past him to get off the bus. There’s little reason to get off the bus at my stop. There’s a church, a McDonald’s and the entrance to the canal road, which I take to walk the rest of the way home.

I got off the bus and headed south on Broadway, and was horrified when he got off the bus behind me. I felt then that he had made his decision, and I discreetly pulled my knife out of my bag as I quickly headed up the street.

What happened next seemed to be in slow motion, and the distance distorted. In reality the distance from the bus bench to the light is about 50 yards, but that day it seemed to be much farther. I continued south on Broadway, walking fast and looking over my shoulder at him. I was afraid and considered just walking up to the closest house and knocking on the door. But I knew an old man lived there, and thought it would be horrible if he followed and killed us both. So I walked faster toward the light, prepared to run into traffic on Broadway if necessary to escape.

I looked back and he was just standing at the bus bench, watching me. He took a couple of steps in my direction and stopped. My thoughts were he was trying to decide his best route to me. He seemed agitated, and began pacing back and forth along the bench, like an animal in a cage trying to find a way out.

I walked faster, and was almost to the light, where I planned to cross Broadway and run to McDonalds. I looked back, and he was still pacing. Perhaps he was having an internal struggle with himself as to whether or not he really wanted to hurt me. He was still agitated and pacing, but it seemed every time he tried to advance in my direction he hit an invisible wall. He stomped up and down and I could tell he was angry.

I made it to the light and we made eye contact as I pushed the button and waited for the light to change. He realized I was going to cross Broadway, and suddenly there were no cars on the street. He headed out into the street as I began to cross, I believe intending to meet me on the other side by the deserted canal road. He made it through the first lane of traffic and again stopped abruptly, as if there were an invisible wall. He threw a fit in the middle of the road, and as I looked back at him I could feel his rage. But he did not come in my direction.

I hustled across the road and as I looked back at him one last time, he returned to the sidewalk and began stomping back the direction we had come, away from me. I made it home safely, and remembered the prayer Glenn had said for me earlier.

Thank you Glenn. I hope we meet again someday.

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March 27, 2018 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , ,

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