Arsha Adarsh

Passing Buses

The bus pulls in. The driver clocks us- one in a chair, one on a crutch- and the hydraulics sigh as she lets it sink to the ground. Tav glides with ease up over the ramp, taps a card. I stroll up after them; the drivers are always so preoccupied with the wheelchair they don't notice I don't have a ticket. An old woman follows, huffing behind her walker. She winks at me and slips in after us.
The driver gets up, and Tav holds out an anxious hand.
No don't worry, I can strap myself in-

For once, that's not it. The air is tense. She addresses a bald white man in his thirties. Sir, if you keep making people uncomfortable, you're going to have to leave. He wears a sneer, a petulant swagger and a pseudo-camouflage jacket. He's leaning into the aisle, right on the edge of his seat. Next to him, a Black woman in her thirties grips her handbag and stares out of the window. In front, an old man wears an anxious frown.
Didn't wanna be on THIS bus anyways he spits, eyeballing the other passengers; a mass of outraged black and brown faces. The driver is no exception.
The old woman is still struggling to get to the flip-up seats, but her walker is stuck in the narrow aisle. The white man charges forward, shoulders squared.
Get out of the way. Bitch.
The bus erupts, a single furious voice. Get off the bus!
The driver moves, ready to eject him-- but the old woman's face is livid as she rams him with the walker. The cheap heavy steel is better than a battering ram. He tries to mask his stagger to the jeers of the other passengers.
The driver shuts the doors as soon as he's gone.
Ma'am, are you ok?
I'm fine. The old woman sits down primly. Her walker is squashed into the aisle next to her; on the other seat is an old man, his own walker piled high with bags crammed in next to him. Clearly, the bus designer had not expected four simultaneous disabled travellers.

You should have let me deal with him, the old man says. She cuts him off.
You're just as old as I am. Anyhow, I dealt with it.
I know, but a lady shouldn't have to-
I ain't a lady. I'm a BITCH she smirks. Now, together, that would've been a different story.
Let's see how he'd handle two old people!

You know, this wheelchair's built like a tank, Tav offers. I'd just need someone to hold him down.
There's a reason I carry a stick and all I add. He hoots in delight. Can you imagine? Four of us, all beating on that one guy all at once! He wouldn't stand a chance! he mimes kicking the floor repeatedly.

The other passengers nudge each other at the old man's animation. The air relaxes.
This is why I love this city he proclaims, I'm homeless, but I feel the the love of God in all of us right here! A refrain of Amen emboldens him, and his arms fold the whole bus into his congregation. When people only act like they in church when they in church, they're doing it all wrong. You bring church with you. This bus, this is Church.
Amen, brother! Louder this time. The driver pipes up.
My grandfather always told me the same thing. He told me, you don't spread the love of God with words. You spread it with kindness. I always remembered that.

Others join in. Shy at first, they hearten at the old man's reassuring eyes and the others' rapt attention. A tiny, sudden church of strangers. Then-
The bus heaves as a red Mini Cooper swings wildly into the freeway, passing inches from the side of the bus. It freewheels into the other lane to slip by; the bus driver slams the brakes as it cuts in front without warning. A few passengers shout profanities as she blares the horn. Many congratulate her on her driving.
Thank you. Is everyone OK? Her voice is shaky when she glances at the mirror.
We're good! comes the reply. A young Latina catches my expression.
I dunno why people gotta rush like that she says. What's worth the danger?
I'd rather be late than dead, I gasp.

Our stop arrives. The hydraulics sigh again as we prepare to leave.
Thank you, Tav tells the driver. I turn to the old man, to the warmth of the other passengers.
Stay safe, I tell them.
You too, comes the reply.

Arsha Adarsh

Arsha Adarsh is Queer, Desi, chronically ill and so damn tired.. Their writing carries themes of identity, healing, and home. Their work has been published in Ang(st), Ghost Heart, The Daily Drunk and others. Find them on Twitter @arsha_writes. read all their published work at aadarsh.ink.