I was standing at the bus stop on a rainy Monday evening having just finished my class and wanting nothing more than to go home, when Ottawa pulled another public transit special and delayed my bus yet again. I didn’t mind waiting, but this was definitely going down in my book of things I hate about this city. I was thinking about the best way to describe the general transit service of the nation's capital when seemingly out of thin air, I heard: “Damn asshole!”
It wouldn’t be the first time my attention was beckoned by such words in that particular area of town, so I assumed the next statement would be a polite inquiry as to the possible provision of small change. I removed my headphones and turned around to find what I would hesitate to call a woman, sporting a pair of black slim-fit jeans, a puffy light blue baseball jacket with the words “LOS ANGELES” embroidered on the front, sleeves, and back- the kind you’d imagine Danny Devito wearing- and a braid of red hair hanging limply to just above her coccyx.
“Bus ain’t comin’, eh?” She asked. I answered something about how long I’d been waiting, and she shook her head, “He’s probably around the corner picking his ass, or his dick, or his balls.”
The certainty behind these options led me to believe she had been a witness to these activities in the past, and could guarantee the bus driver engaging in at least one of them, with the only remaining question pertaining to its identification. I nodded, mainly because I didn’t want her to explain how she knew, and wondered about the possibility of more than one option being valid at once. “You from around here?” she asked me and I shook my head no. “Yeah, you from around here,” she said. “Don’t lie. I seen you.” I laughed the kind of laugh you laugh hoping some passer-by might hear and come to your immediate rescue, but alas no one was around. The bus was now half an hour late, but the announcement kept repeating five minutes to arrival. I figured the silver lining was that at least in a few hours my corpse would be found and then maybe the bus system would be guilted into functioning properly. “Cause I was gonna say,” my fellow traveller interrupted my fantasy, “Me I take care of my neighbors. A guy ever tell ya sumping ya don’t wanna hear, ya tell him to go shove his nose in a pipe. Tell him ya mama said so. That’s me- Mama.” With those words, Mama pulled out a carton of DuMauriers and wedged a cigarette between her lips. She took four steps away from me as she lit up, which pained me as I realized that a woman with missing nails had more manners than the typical downtown businessman. I considered the idea of not judging a book by its cover while we waited, in silence, until a few minutes later she started pacing again. “Wait 'til that damn asshole come round the corner. I’m gonna jump that fucker,” she took a drag of her third stick, and then turned to me with widened eyes, adding: “Or could it be a her?” I couldn’t think of anything equally insightful to add, so I said, “Maybe”. I was also terribly hungry and worried that with every word, my energy was depleting which would eventually lead me to faint, which, in turn, would undeniably lead to Mama dragging me home to 'take care of her neighbor' with nightmarish remedies – namely Wonder Bread and Sunny Delight. I looked away and to my personal delight, saw a man coming our way. He stopped beside me and pulled out his phone, dialing the bus number. “Five minutes!” he announced. I didn’t want to scare him off by telling him it's been 'five minutes' for the past thirty, so I feigned enthusiasm with an “Oh great!” and pulled my transfer out of my pocket excitedly. Mama was now looking down at her hands, fingers spread out and catatonic. “Un, dos, tres, cinco, ocho, nueve…” she counted on her fingers, "Un, dos, tres, cinco, ocho....nueve..." upon realizing she had made a terrible mistake leaving a bunch of fingers unaccounted for, she suddenly yelled “No!” and kicked the bus stop pole. I looked down. The man beside me whipped out his phone again in an attempt to look unfazed, but I could see the little flame of fear igniting at the pit of his soul. The good thing was that there were two of us normal people now. The bad thing is that there could’ve easily been at least one extra person inside her jacket. Two, if on the smaller side.
An elderly man rode by on a bicycle, smiling. "Turn your strobe light off, motherfucker!" Mama yelled. Then she turned to me and explained, "There's nothing worse that bugs me more." The man turned off his light obediently and began to pedal faster. I thought about walking home, but by this time, there was probably a street full of like-minded individuals awaiting my arrival. Once, I walked down that road in broad daylight and felt the cold hollowness of a beer bottle grazing the back of my head. I imagine these tools become heavier at night, and there’s a chance their aim becomes better, as well.
“Hey, one time I dropped a tub of cement on my foot. I yelled ‘Help! Help!’ but everyone just drove by and laughed.” Mama pulled out another smoke, but this time more slowly as if to signal the beginning of a serious conversation. The man took a few steps away from me, leaving me to steer the conversation away from the general topic of murder, so I said “Oh, that’s terrible. What did you do?” to which Mama answered: “I said to myself I gotta take care of this shit cause ain’t no motherfucker gonna help, so I put away my anger and lifted it off. Was heavy, I’ll tell you that, but I did it.”
As I thought about these words, the bus suddenly appeared and pulled over. We stumbled on, and I let Mama pick her seat so that I could ensure I sat far away from it. She chose to occupy two of the front seats for the elderly and handicapped. From where I sat, I could see her wrapping her arms around a mentally challenged man just before announcing: “Stephen Harper? Yeah I know him well but that motherfucker can die”. I could barely hear her over the words she had shared with me just moments before we parted ways, and it was all I could think about on my walk home later that night. I wondered if we're all just waiting to be saved -by a moment, an event, or a passer-by, perhaps. Are we waiting for life to become something else, something better, and for someone to finally lift the weight off of not only our foot but our conscience? If so, maybe it’s time we all put away our anger, or fear, or expectations, and just save ourselves, because quite often in life, ain’t no motherfucker gonna help.