Aaron Jacob Wolfson

Visiting Hours

It was pouring rain when I left my apartment to catch the bus. And I saw that it was already sitting at the stop; I started running. I was late and visiting hours ended soon. The driver must have seen me: the bus didn’t move.

I got on the bus and said “thank you” and the driver said, “funny seeing you here.”

I was startled and glanced up from the card reader at the tall, bulky man in white plastic gloves and a blue surgical mask behind the plexiglass shield.

“Why is it funny?” I said. “This is a bus and I want to ride on it.”

“Don’t you find it funny that of all the hundreds of bus routes in the city, you showed up on mine? At this exact time, at this exact stop. If you’d arrived a few minutes earlier, the bus ahead of me would have picked you up. Seconds later and you would have missed me. Another driver would be talking to you right now.”

I instinctively checked for a hint of a smirk that might belie the sincerity in his voice, but of course, his mouth was cloaked in mystery.

“You’d have to say it’s funny,” he said.

He stared at me from up on his seat like a middle school English teacher who genuinely could not fathom why I hadn’t read the week’s assignment. I’d already scanned my fare card, and by this point any other driver would be halfway to the next stop.

I looked into the bus to see if any of the other passengers were getting ready to provide a welcome intervention, but there were none. The bus was empty.

“I’m not sure that it is,” I said. At any moment surely he’d snap out of it, turn back to face the road, and give it the gas.

“You’re not?” he said.

“No, I’m not,” I said. “I got to this bus stop, the one closest to my house, at 6:14, because that’s when it was scheduled to show up, and it’s the first one that was scheduled to show up after I was ready to leave. And now it’s 6:17, which is later than when I wanted to leave, and we haven’t left yet. So I’m having a little trouble finding that funny.”

“I’m not leaving until you admit that it’s funny,” he said.

“You know, it gets less funny the more you insist,” I said.

He did not reply; he’d made his argument. Still piercing me with those eyes.

I waited. I swept my gaze again through the empty bus. I watched the cars motor past over the bus driver’s shoulder. I sighed.

“Alright. I can see that this” — I spread my arms and hands out in front of my body, indicting the driver, the bus, the world — “isn’t going anywhere.”

I wheeled around and stepped down onto the sidewalk; the doors to the bus had remained open the whole time.

I pulled the hood of my rain jacket back up over my head and tightened the cords, and I started power-walking the ten blocks to the hospital. I could still make it. The jacket was oversized, and the front of the hood flopped in front of my glasses as I went. With the rain and the breath directed upwards from my mask, they were so fogged anyway that I couldn’t see through them. I kept my gaze down at the concrete.

I sensed Gethsemane Garden Center appearing to my right. The big farmhouse that held the gift shop and the workshop space was locked tight. The wrought iron gates to the greenhouse and the plaza were shut. I didn’t look up to read the large sign tied to the bars, but I knew what it said:

Closed March 21 — TBD.
“We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business” — Gwendolyn Brooks

I almost knocked over a small table that was propped in front of the entrance to the gates. It was covered in fresh cut daisies. There was a piece of paper, inside a plastic binder sleeve, taped to the edge of the table and hanging freely, on which was written:

Take a Flower, Leave a Blessing

I plucked one of the stalks from the center of the pile, and I held it to my chest with both hands. I realized the bus hadn’t passed me. Feeling fortified, I looked over my shoulder, but it wasn’t at the stop anymore. It was nowhere to be seen.

Out loud I said, “I hope we make it.”

Thanks for reading! If you want more like this, I send out a short newsletter once a week (here's a good issue) with reflections, new stuff I've written, and links to the best stuff I'm reading.

← Home