The Uphill Slide

There is always something.

Shelter From The Cold


I had not dressed to stand and wait for a bus on a single-digit day. I could feel my exposed ears and cheeks turning red as I huddled in the corner of the bus shelter. The P1 let out passengers and then drove away to idle for 20 minutes until the next scheduled pick-up. Why couldn’t he just let us climb on board to sit and wait with him in the long warm body? I suppose it’s against the rules.

A young man stood facing me in our three-sided enclosure. He complained that ConnectCard machines weren’t taking dollars. He needed a week pass to get to work. This was the opening of a conversation about money and life. His. He was saving for a car in the spring. He had a thousand already. He lit up a Newport, and I coughed. He apologized, and I excused his smoke saying I had the onset of a sore throat.

He lent a woman friend money. He’s always willing to help out a friend when he can. But when she asked again, he said no. She berated him knowing he had money.  She was working him.  “She wasn’t my girlfriend,” he explained. I wanted to scream at him, “She’s guilting you. Trying to make you feel selfish. Manipulating your feelings.” But he was just a stranger at the bus stop possibly over sharing. So I simply said that he didn’t owe her anything and was doing what was right for himself. But she had succeeded in guilting him. Here he was trying to explain himself to a stranger. Stop doing that! Please!

His baby mama (I used to despise this term with its counterpart baby daddy. But in fact it’s perfect to describe an often ephemeral relationship. Someone with no legal status but more than just an ex. ) was in an accident on the slick roads. T-boned. She was shaken but his son unharmed. Waiting now for the insurance check on her 2000 vehicle with only 115,000 miles. Like brand new. “Pretty good for 17 years old,” I replied. Sure, the engine light was on. You know that could mean something or nothing. Yes, it did need brakes. Still, it was in great shape for an old car.

There was a wreck with his parents a couple years ago on the day or day after his son was born. That’s where they were driving to. To see the new baby when they got caught in gunfire and a police chase. His mother damaged her chances for an insurance claim by talking to reporters. His father’s been doctoring ever since and waiting for a settlement.

And then there’s his tax refund. He paid in about a $1,000. Did I think he would get it all back? He’s not claiming his son. “Probably not all,” I guessed. I didn’t want to get up his hopes for the refund. He’ll only file legitimately. Maybe one of those free preparers at the YMCA. He used someone once who was too creative and got audited. If someone asks for a thousand to get you ten, walk away. Good advice. Sounds too good to be true…

Plans for the summer? Get out of town to  ride a roller coaster bigger than any at Kennywood. Maybe Cedar Point? Where is that? “Sandusky, Ohio. On Erie.” The other side of Cleveland. I didn’t add that I worked there one summer making candy apples and taco meat.

“Nice talking to you,” as he let me board the warm bus first.

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