The View from Nathan’s Bus: Back on the 7, 9pm-11pm

Image by Nathan Vass.

Image by Nathan Vass.

This is the second in a series of three posts describing the same night. See above and below.

Austin comes racing across Broadway, jumping in at the last minute. Red lights were made for this. Usually I’m the one who says the archaic “as I live and breathe” to people, but this time it’s him. A Cornish student and violinist, with whom I used to see once a week on a different schedule. We’d talk high art and literature while roaming the populated night.

“Austin! How great that you are here, on my first day back!”
“Really?”
“Truly!”
“I thought I’d missed the bus, but then–”
“You saw it was me, driving with my light on–”
“I saw it was you and I knew!”
“It was meant to be!”
“How are you, what’s the latest?”
“I’m going to Cuba on Thursday!”
“What the fuck?”
“That’s what I thought!”
“Ha!”

I tell him about the new Denis Villeneuve picture, Sicario, and why I think it’s spectacular. We talk about Gueros, a black-and-white gem that showed at SIFF, by a new Mexican filmmaker. Is he still spending time with that young lady he was with at the screening?
“No, she moved. She’s in London.”
“That’s not allowed! What’s she doing there?”
“It’s good. Everyone should do that. Travel and learn. She’s dancing in the company, she got into Laban.”
“Wait. She’s dancing with Laban?”
“No, she’s dancing with the company!”
“Oh, okay! That makes sense! I was about to have a brain aneurism!”
“Ha!”

There’s Michael Jackson. He pauses outside the bus, standing outside the open doors, slouching with glee. I don’t believe it, his body language says.

“Heey!”
“Heeey!” I shout back. “Where you been all my life?”
“Where YOU been?”
“I’m back in the game!”
“Sheeeeyit!”
“That’s how I feel! How ’bout you, where you goin’?”
“I’m headed to a J.O.B.”
“Congratulations, man! Michael Jackson!” I say his name as a sports announcer does a well-loved favorite.
“Shoot! He says, ‘Michael Jackson!’ I haven’t smoked weed in a month!”
“That’s cool!”
“Yeah.”
“Keepin’ it responsible, nothin’ wrong with that.”
“I can’t believe it.”
“I know, you’re kinda blowin’ my mind right now.” He was always high, back in the day. I say into the mic, “here we go,” as per usual.
“Aawwwww shoot,” he enthuses, as it all comes back. To the couple beside him, who are slightly cowed by his outsized eagerness, he says, “you’re gonna be seein’ him on da wall!” Meaning the portraits of Operators of the Year.
“Nawwww!”
“He’s like, ‘naaaww!'”
“I’m too young, man! Tha’ be too good to be true!”

“Good to see you!” is the rallying byword of the night. The past summer, working reduced hours and going to class, steeped in Art Life, Friend Life, in and out of love, has all been a treasure. I had the honor of showing in Pioneer Square, completing a film, and the painful privilege of heartbreak. But what about Bus Life? The absence of a crucial ingredient reveals its importance. Spending mornings on the 70 and the 36 with commuters has been pleasant enough, but words like “pleasant” and “tolerable” have no traction when describing the great and towering monolith of the 7. To revel in the specific joy of getting along with these people, these unvarnished masses, more crude, more polite, more loving, more hateful… the rush of surfing along this ridge tastes like nothing else. I feel whole, buoyed up by the challenge and the responsiveness of the crowd, as they push me ever higher, closer to the ceiling of what I’m capable of. You feel yourself raising the ceiling, piercing through it a little, and no other form of exhilaration is quite the same.

To be continued…


This entry has been re-printed, with the author’s permission, from the author’s blog.