"I'm not like you, you know."
Her voice takes me by surprise. I'm sitting on the bus going to work. We had stopped about fifteen minutes before to pick up an orange haired woman riding in a black manual chair. A chair not unlike my own. She sat comfortably in her chair as she was pushed up the ramp. The chair was secured, she was strapped in, and we were on our way, all very efficient.
It had been pleasant enough. I said, 'good morning'. She said, 'good morning'. The driver said, 'good morning'. It was very ... very ... Waltons. Then we were off again. I was pleased because the door had been left open while she was being secured into place and the bus had become cold. Once we were driving again, the heater began pouring heat down on us in the back. It was a cosy feeling.
The driver and I had chatted in a lively manner on the way to pick up the next passenger but he and I were both talked out and content to ride in quiet to the next stop. I was looking out the window, thinking about the day to come, the weekend to come, the holidays to come. All that stuff.
Then she spoke. 'I'm not like you, you know.'
I turned to her. She had one of those faces that looked like it would be soft to the touch. She smiled in that way you expect Grandmothers to smile while offering you cake. I didn't know what to say, 'so you aren't a fat and balding gay man? seemed somehow inappropriate.
I've been to school.
I studied psychology.
I learned, at great cost to my parents, how to say, in an interested fashion, 'oh?'
It's a skill.
A very useful skill.
Encouraged, without knowing that she had just fallen prey to hours of study and practice, she said, 'I just broke my foot.' She pointed down to her foot that was in one of those plastic contraptions that they use now instead of casts. I called it a cast but she informed me, pleased with the knowledge, that it was called a 'boot'. I looked at her confused. What was she saying, I said, 'Oh.'
Encouraged, I told you I was good at this, she said, 'I'll be up and walking again as soon as it's mended. I'm not like you.'
I didn't know what to say, 'good for you' seemed oddly wrong. Or, 'lucky you' seemed counter to what I believe. Or, 'I don't give a flying fuck' which was closer to the truth, seemed unduly harsh to a woman with an 'I'm giving you cake' smile.
So I said, wait for it, 'Oh.'
That seemed to satisfy her.
She's not like me.
Surprisingly, really, really surprisingly, I'm totally OK with that.