Commute, from the Latin com, "with" mutare "to change." To change places, moving from home to work, work to home. The transition, a place between places, a (parenthetical) world between worlds, with it's own laws and weathers, it's own events and stories, consisting of car interiors, park and rides, bus stops, busses, trains, the landscapes sliding past the window like endless variations of an old film. The commute contains other changes as well, the change in selves: the work self with its focus on tasks and deadlines, it's hierarchical relationships, it's mixture of reinforcements and humiliations; the home self with its different relationships balancing authority and intimacy, with it's own special rewards, worries and humiliations. The commute is a time for the self, itself, to transition. I have been commuting for fifteen years.
The bus stop at night. Is that a place to begin? But then is any place a beginning? Leaves and litter rise in little whirls behind the bench shelter. There seems to be some sort of wind tunnel here--the breeze off the water funneled between the buildings, breaking into turbulence on the sidewalk and street in swirling eddies and brisk gusts. He pulls his coat collar closer around his neck and pulls his cell phone from his pant's pocket to check the time. Fifteen minutes. Bad timing. He got to the stop too early; too long to wait comfortably, but not long enough to go somewhere warm and get a cup of coffee. He looks down the street. A pair of headlights shine on the pavement under a swinging traffic light.
A half dozen people are also at the stop. In the garish light of the streetlight they are huddled shadows. Most are bent over their cell phones or IPods. A couple of weathered men talk in Spanish beside the posted schedules. One man leans on the light pole itself smoking a cigarette. Beside him, under the shelter's plastic roof, a women in a pale blue sweat shirt stands silently.
A bus pulls up, not the one he needs, but the one that comes only about ten minutes before. A woman, dimunative, only about five feet tall, stands on the sidewalk by the bus schedule sign and shouts at the bus driver as the passengers disembark. "You bastard, I know you. You're a cop. You're CIA or a sheriff. I know you from before. You are trying to go undercover, but I know you. You can't hide." The bus driver ignores her. The passenger part around her like a stream splitting around a rock, not looking at her, not meeting her eyes.
After the bus pulls away, she comes up two him. She is wearing an old red nylon coat.the sleeves are frayed and ratting. There is a tear in the side revealing dirty white foam. "I am sorry about that," she says, "but he had it coming. She looks up into his face, her eyes slightly amused. "Do you have any change? I need to pay my rent." He reaches into his pockets. "I have 38 cents, that want do much toward your rent." She takes the money placidly and moves down the bus stop not stopping to talk to anyone else. The woman, standing near him, her face half hidden in a pale blue hood, smiles up at him, knowingly. He smiles back.
The bus arrives and the half dozen people waiting line up to climb aboard.