March 2, 2012 by Tiffany A. Robbins
It wasn’t Maggie’s fault. The universe had slapped her with the spirit of a meteor tumbling on three axes. The only thing certain about her path as she climbed onto the crowded, cross-continent bus was that eventually she would meet with destruction.
The perpetual stigma of fear that Maggie had for motor vehicles was instilled in her from a young age, but there was no avoiding this one. It was true that she had other choices of how to get to her destination, but the chances of survival in a bus crash were better than on a plane and a bus would cause less collateral damage than a train. The bus ride was the best option for everyone, especially considering that the weather outside was a precarious drizzle which the weatherman had threatened to turn into snow.
Prior to this unexpected, but necessary trip, she had taken all precautions to calm the universe of its spit toward her. Maggie had done every good deed she could from the moment she got the phone call to the moment she stepped onto the bus. She had held open every door for at least one person before she stepped through it. She was sure to use only the longest lines and to make sure anyone behind her who looked to be in a hurry was let in front of her. Maggie had even helped a mom with kids and groceries in tow get to her car without crushing any loaves of bread. That in itself was a risky task, but it was well worth the good deed. Her efforts had cost her time, two smashed fingers, and a broken nail; but she could not pass up the opportunity with such a dangerous trip ahead of her.
She tried not to think of the risk her fellow passengers were taking by sharing a bus with her. Long ago, she’d learned that the best way to stay sane was to ignore the guilt that would burden her if she let it.
She stepped carefully down the bus’s damp and muddy aisle, mindful to avoid stray purse straps and untied shoe laces. Maggie was always careful to watch her feet in crowded spaces, which often caused her to miss absorbing her surroundings. At times, disaster ensued, but there had been more instances of disaster from her unwatched feet. So she kept her steps well guarded as she passed the occupied seats at the front of the bus, and she missed the meaningful expression from the gentleman, Rick, in the fourth row.
Rick was unsure why, but he felt the tilt of the universe as he watched Maggie gingerly step through the bus. Was it the look of concentration on her face, he wondered, or something else? He was surprised to feel the bus lurch forward as he felt it must have already been moving from the moment Maggie stepped on board. He tried not to stare and was grateful for her distracted manner.
Maggie finally reached the first empty seat in the sixth row with only a wad of gum on the bottom of her shoe as evidence of her walk down the length of the bus. She placed her small, hastily packed suitcase under the seat and sat quickly into the row so she wouldn’t fall as the bus rumbled down the road. She pulled her foot to her lap and bent to examine the damage to the bottom of her favorite flats. They had a pretty palm tree design carved into the super grip soles, and were held tightly to her foot with a web of elastic bands across the top.
As she bent over, an alarming odor caused her to take stock of her neighbor and she chided herself for so absently choosing a bench mate. She knew better. Maggie pondered the danger of moving seats with the bus in motion as she watched the ancient woman snore and drool upon herself.
Miles down the road a small child’s eye blinked from between the seats ahead and caught her eye. Maggie was mortified that someone had seen her rudely staring at the old woman for such a long time. She shuddered at her tactlessness, and instantly began to fret about the possible ramifications the universe would have in store for her. She racked her brain for a potential fix and noticed there was a chill in the air. So she pulled her shawl out of her handbag, the one her aunt had painstakingly crocheted for her with arthritic fingers, and draped it across the woman in an effort to stop any possible karmic reactions to her insensitivity.
The elderly woman snorted and shifted under the shawl. She bolted up, startled. “What? What?” She shouted, terribly disoriented.
“I’m so sorry!” Maggie cried, “I didn’t mean to disturb you.” Her flustered manner only scared the woman worse. The woman flailed about and Maggie watched in horror as the surrounding passengers were pelted with the contents of her handbag. Her cherished shawl flew through the air and landed in the aisle ahead, soaking up the puddles left by the many wet shoes which had passed. The driver slammed on the brakes in response to the commotion, and Maggie felt her stomach lurch as the bus swerved upon the rain slick road.
With the bus stopped, the passengers safe from debris, and the driver’s assistance; Maggie was able to relocate across the aisle to suffer the glares of the lousy old woman at a somewhat safer distance.
Her breathing was finally calming as Rick made his way down the rumbling bus toward her; scarf in hand, to figure out why the universe moved around this strange, chaotic woman…