Before Perú Bus Life


December 9, 2014

What I thought would begin as a normal day on the bus turned into something unusual, even for bus life.

I was reading as usual – this time Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” – when I heard the soft yet self-assured voice of a young woman. It’s pretty typical that I get interrupted from reading because of a distracting sound. I listened to what seemed to sound like a young woman speaking to someone next to her. I tried to read on when I heard her voice become more distinct. It was like when a static-y radio station starts to come in clearer and you can make out what they’re saying. I heard her say something about her lineage. I tried to go back to reading when I heard something about her lineage again. I realized after a few moments that whatever it was she was saying she was repeating over and over again. Not one sentence over and over, but there seemed to be a pattern.

Your skin cannot stand the sun.

She continued on something about her lineage again, and I realized it was a poem.

I Googled the words I was hearing as she said them to see if it was indeed a poem. Nothing.

But, she went on:

Your skin cannot stand the sun

Your hate for my lineage… something, something, something.

She – I’m naming her Dreamer – read it clearly and confidently, and grew more passionate in her tone as the poem progressed.

It was a poem about racial segregation or racism… something to do with a Native American asking a white man why he hates him. It was absolutely profound. I wanted her to recite it enough times just so I could jot it down into my journal for my own reading pleasure later.

While I was certain it was odd that Dreamer was reciting what seemed to be her own poetry for the bus people. While I was certain normal people didn’t do that… I quite enjoyed it. I was almost possessive about her zealousness.

She read that poem a few times and then moved onto another poem. I peaked my head into the aisle to catch a glimpse of her face, and she didn’t look older than early twenties with her long, brunette dreadlocks.

Dreamer continued on with something about nature’s confetti, twirling around the sun. She seemed to still be in progress with this one as she played with how different phrases sounded coming out of her mouth, but she wasn’t concerned that every one could hear her.

It was so impressive, but I was almost embarrassed for her.

And, then, she started singing. Boldly and casually, she just sang her own little made up songs. I can’t say that I found her singing voice as impressive as her creative writing abilities, but she could carry a melody, and she had interesting things to say. Her first song clearly informed us that she was a feminist. Her lyrics were funny. It was all so odd and whimsical; I wanted to laugh. I was convinced not to, though, when I heard the girl in the seat behind her burst out in laughter. I wasn’t sure if she found the song to be humorous, as I did, or if she was just making fun of poor Dreamer.

Dreamer got off the bus about fifteen minutes before I did. I didn’t know who this mysterious, passionate, light-hearted anti-racism feminist was or where she was going, but I found something so honest about her that I liked her.

. . . . .

Tonight I was headed home after work. I had chosen my seat near the front of the bus and propped open “Wild.” I was all nestled in ready to journey through the Pacific Crest Trail with Cheryl when GUESS WHO GOT ON THE BUS!

If you guessed Dreamer, you are correct.

What are the chances?

On the way home she talked to her African American friend about her anti-racism campaigning work through the front range. She seemed passionate, but I could sense a brokenness about her. It was when she started talking about losing her child to the system that I had to put my head phones in and turn on some music.

The system brings up all sorts of emotions for me, having been a foster parent. There’s a lot you hear about, a lot you have to discern in your heart about. It’s a hard, learned balance of judgement and compassion toward the parents of these kids – these precious kids whom you are praying will walk through doors of healing, with your love and support right beside them. It’s hard to think about these parents because many of them live in the false delusion that they are good parents but substance abuse and other roadblocks cloud their vision to see clearly. And some of these parents really are great parents who have fallen into a corruptly-facilitated system. Gahhh. This is why I put my headphones on. It’s not my place to listen in on personal conversations like these. I draw the line.

Tom Odell’s “Heal” plays in the background.

How fitting.

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