The Man On The Bus

By Sherri Silesky • March 12, 2015

He moved slowly down the aisle of the bus after depositing his coins in the box up front. Though heavily clad in a long dark overcoat and hat, his disfigured face from bulbous tumors was in plain view, as were his hands once he removed his gloves. People stared then looked away, though whatever force it is that makes people want to watch a disaster made them look again and again when they thought he wouldn’t notice. But everyone knows you don’t need eyes to know when someone is looking at you. Still.

I looked too, though for an entirely different reason. A reason my twelve years old mind could not comprehend. A kinship of a sort. I sat in the back and watched him exit the bus. As he walked down the aisle again, he dropped one of his gloves. It was winter and frigidly cold. He needed those gloves. My brain screamed for me to pick it up and hand it too him. I saw other people, adults mostly, see the same thing I did. Not one of us gave it to him. Not one of us helped. Not one of us, pushed past the fear, the disgust, the sorrow or whatever else it was that held us back. That held me back. Me. Only me. I was the one that should have smiled and handed it back to him. It was a test, and I failed it.

I had just been diagnosed with Von Rheklinghousen disorder (Neurofibromatosis ((NF)) and although I was too young to understand consciously much of what I had been told, my spirit understood we were the same, that man and I. We were both cut from the same cloth. And then, I suddenly realized, we are all cut from the same cloth. Just different parts of it.

I have tried, over the years, to forgive myself for that transgression. Part of me allows forgiveness, for I was only twelve. And part of me feels I will never be able to get past that incident.

What’s strange is this: About 10 years later, on Halloween, I was sitting in the window of a restaurant, waiting for a friend. I glanced up, and lo and behold, the same man was walking briskly passed the window. I suddenly realized that on this night, Halloween, he felt safe to be walking the streets without being stared at. But I knew who he was. And once I realized all that, the time for me to run after him and speak to him like the human being he was, had passed. Again.

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