Her mind was more muddled than usual, and so I found myself stuck in a circular conversation while bus after bus failed to show up. 5 minutes became 25. And I kept repeating how it had been 80 degrees today and how I’d been at a book event, not the bar I’m usually at on Tuesdays, and no it wasn’t for work I just really like books and how people use the internet for job searching (“The internet is a big thing nowadays.”) and yes, all the trees are in bloom, and yes, everyone in the family is a-okay.
30 minutes later, when we weren’t irritated with each other, it felt like we were going through the motions. Her questions were routine, as were my answers.
Maybe it was that I was out in public and my usually soft voice was pitched so that the people walking by wouldn’t overhear my repetitions (“September. No, not December. Sep-tem-ber. The 9th month of the year”) or maybe it was that the traffic sounds punctuated my answers more than my voice or maybe my frustration with the public transit system bled through my tone, but I sounded less cheerful than usual. Maybe that’s why she returned to the same three topics (weather, family, my physical location) over and over? Because despite the routine of our Tuesday night chats, those were the only familiar things tonight.
Going on 35 minutes now, she claimed to enjoy our chat but the only details she could remember were ones from long ago (softball and trivia and my siblings). She couldn’t remember I’d traveled out for her birthday a few months ago and played the “when am I going to see you again” guilt trip. I’d love to see you again soon, too, Maga! But will you even remember I’ve been there? And after a few more “it was 80 degrees today” and “I’m not at home yet, I’m trying to get there,” but no buses, my patience was wearing thin.
Maga: It’s the changing of the guard here. My day caregiver leaves at 6 and my night one comes at 6. So I have company almost all the time.
Me: It’s more than I have.
Maga: But you’re not 97.
Maga: That makes all the difference.
It might in some scenarios, but here on this sidewalk of the neverending-wait-for-the-bus-dear-god-why-won’t-it-come-should-I-call-a-Lyft-but-my-bus-pass-is-already-paid-for, the comment felt like a personal dig on my lonely lifestyle. And then I got irritated with myself because it was gorgeous out, I had nowhere specific to be, and I had company in the form of Maga. Even if the conversation was long and meandering and sometimes fruitless, I had the privilege to be irritated by it. We’ve talked long enough and often enough to know each other in the way that can sometimes feel like a pebble in your shoe and isn’t that what I was searching for when I started these calls all those years ago?
The bus showed up (two canceled Lyfts later) (thank you for the false alarms, #77 bus) and as I was deposited at my stop an hour and 45 minutes after my trek home started, I walked home under violet skies with a heart now filled with more love than crankiness.