The Wheels on the Bus…

I woke up thinking of Finishing School. I certainly didn’t attend, but in a dream, a servant right out of Arabian Nights was massaging my shoulders as I was served some food. I picked up an odd-looking table knife with a handle so tiny that it seemed the rest of handle had gone missing. I put it down to use the ‘normal’ one and he whispered in my ear that, “the ladies use the small-handled knife. The larger is for the gentlemen.” When I woke up I thought of a friend whose daughter was asked what finishing school she had gone to.

Why did I remember this dream? I never remember dreams anymore. It was a spectacular place that dinner was held at with a frozen lake and a massive yurt that suddenly appears in the center  of the lake and inside was a palace with a princess and her father, both looking very much like people I had been watching on Blacklist just before falling asleep.

But, I digress.

On the bus ride home yesterday a family sat behind the driver. An infant bundled in a hot pink blanket, a toddler between the stroller and mom and dad. Mom had long strawberry blonde hair and ample bosoms right out a Dickens’ novel, except we could see a great deal of them. Dad was covered head to toe with ink. Both were attractive people, but I needed to actually look beyond their signifiers to realize that. They had adorned themselves in ways that distracted the eye away from their fine, symmetrical, Northern European features with aspects that screamed for respect from their community and screamed, ‘fuck you’ to everyone else.

If you walked on past them to your seat, you might have not paid any more attention. Everyone has tattoos and/or cleavage in 2017. What brought most of the forward seated riders’ attentions to the family was the mother entertaining the toddler by pointing to the drawings on daddy’s arm and asking, “What’s this?” “That?” “What’s this?” on and on for about a mile. She’d then enunciate each tear-drop, fly, and heart after the boy answered; exactly what parents need to do to teach their children. Only it felt weird to me to read the dad’s sleeve, instead of a book or looking out the window.

Eventually the boy grew tired of the recitation and started crying loudly. Mom picked him up and he buried his head in her breasts and continued to toddler-cry that I-needed-a-longer-nap sort of wail. Mom said, “stop crying” and he wailed louder. This went on for a quarter mile or so before mom grew irritated. “STOP SCREAMING! I DON’T LIKE SCREAMING,” she screamed. The boy tried to stop but by that time the crying was reflexive and so he got a little louder. She got a louder, too. “I HATE SCREAMING! STOP!” this time he started winding it down.

During the commotion, Dad leaned his red-star blazoned, scribbled chin into the baby in the stroller, lightly kissed the baby feet and stared into the stroller and smiled that smile that only a parent can—soft sweet grin, crinkled corners of the eyes—and nuzzled the feet again.

Now mom and little brother were singing ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ loudly alternating with ‘Itsy Bitsy Spider’. She was desperately trying to keep the little boy busy and smiling, oblivious to the rest of the bus nearly full of Sunday riders. I might have joined them for a round of ‘The Wheels on the Bus’, but they were so insulated and in their own family space that I would have been the creepy one. The boy was getting restless and dad reached over and tickled him just enough to get the boy giggling. He lifted him away from mom and then started teasing that he was going to lick the boy who then started a shrill squealing that was loud as he giggled, “no!” wiggling just out of reach with every dad-move til he was upside down.

I watched as passengers winced at the volume that was getting louder. I expected that at any moment the driver sitting a foot away would ask them to turn down the volume, but he never did. They would get off soon enough, but not before I pulled the cord or stepped off from the back door.

 

—Teri Schoch

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