In cities where public transportation is a way of life, I’ve seen serious drama go down on the bus line. I’m talking lovers’ quarrels, catfights, pickup artists and addicts, hookers and bums. But until last week, I’d never seen the fallout from a commuter scorned.
I’m in New York on a brief furlough and my living accommodations are way out in Queens, a bus ride and a 20-minute hike from the last stop on the N train. On a bitter cold weekday morning, I stuffed my hands in my pockets and hunched my shoulders in my coat while I waited with the other straphangers for the Q69 bus. It had snowed the day before and patches of ice glittered in the harsh sun. As I peaked through the narrow space between the brim of my cap and the zippered collar of my parka, I saw a poster plastered to the bus stop wall. I moved closer to read the heading.
“Q69 Tony is a Dog!!!”
I searched the street — no bus.
2i I glanced at the row houses across 23rd, at the school children marching pp up Ditmars, and back to the poster, a full 8½-by-11 inches of rage poured into 14-point font:
“I believed you when you said married people get lonely, too. Now I know what you were looking for. A ONE-NIGHT STAND. I believed you were for real.”
The people around me began to stir. They raised their heads and looked toward the street as the familiar squeal of bus brakes reached us. I looked to the poster’s final lines:
“You lied to me. I should have believed NOTHING!!!!!!”
I stopped reading at the sixth exclamation point and pulled my MetroCard out of my pocket. I queued with the other commuters and threw a final backward glance at the flier. I thought about the woman who had posted it, about the anger she must have rolling around inside her like ball bearings. I wondered about the kind of rage that stays with a person as she types a full-page diatribe, an anger that sticks with her as she prints out multiple copies, an anger that hangs around even as she visits every bus stop along the Q69 route with a stack of fliers and a roll of tape.
In my experience, this sort of sustaining anger is rarely directed outward. In fact, it’s often pointed inward, at our own misdeeds. I’ve read that rage like that arises when we don’t respect our own boundaries when, say, we sleep with a city bus driver on first meeting even when we know he’s married. That’s the kind of lack of self respect that makes a woman stay mad for ages, that drives her to shout her rage from the rooftops. Or bus stops.
Perhaps in the end she regretted her rash act. Or maybe Tony cleaned up the posters. It’s hard to say. But they were gone the next morning.
Now when I climb on the bus I can’t help but seek out the driver’s nametag. And if he winks at me — like he did this morning — I have to wonder if it’s Tony. ¦