A Stone of a Woman

February 4, 2010

The other night as I was coming home I found myself apart of something I couldn’t ignore. The bus stopped. People got off. I was missing something. Four people remained on the bus. Two older gentlemen who were obliviously drunk so much so that they weren’t able to heed the driver’s exit rules. There was a college student who was asleep and me the confused foreigner who had lost the service announcement in translation.

The driver quarreled with the two stumbling men urging them to leave. They weren’t leaving. They were busy slurring insults at him and his poor mother.

I attempted to avert this scenario by politely interjecting and asking the driver why this bus wasn’t going to my home like it should be. The driver’s animosity shifted quickly. I came at me. He went into a red-faced-diatribe about . . . well, it was a bit fast and a little to complex for my Chinese level. I looked out the window and figured it was the last bus of the night and I figured that the last bus of the night wasn’t going to my home. At least that’s what the clues were telling me.

I stood up to exit and watched as one of the weak-kneed-wobblers tipped right into the hazy-eyed college student’s lap. In his defense he awoke hugging a pungent old man. And then only realized that the bus was not where he wanted it to be either. He brashly removed the smiling old man. The old man looked at me and stumbled and continued slurring his side of the story.

The bus driver kept pushing them out as I jumped off. From outside I continued watching these men interact with each other.

I stood next to a lady in a nice purple coat clutching her shiny black purse. She was elegant. This was no place for her. I felt embarrassed on her behalf for what she was witnessing. From here perspective I imagined that this looked brutish. It was a remnant of a more barbarous age. But she didn’t sway one way or the other. She was completely un-amused by the whole scene. Roused not, her gaze remained blank. The stumbling men nearly knocked into her, the stiff liquor swirled in the air but she didn’t as much blink an eye. She ‘nothinged’ them. Her lack of regard was impressive to me. She was a stone of a woman. A ruthless stoic in the presence of these inferiors.

The men continued assaulting and defiling the driver’s mother. And then it happened. The foggy eyed college student, off the bus now, in a flash lunged with a blunt swing at the driver’s head. It was sheepishly blocked. They squabbled and clawed for a bit. I glanced at the purple lady. She neither looked nor cared. She might have been deaf and blind for all I knew. Was I imagining her? Was she there? Was she real?

The driver and the boy continued to slap each other. These weren’t kung-fu artists by any stretch of the imagination. Dismiss that Asian stereotype. They hissed and scratched and then the doors were shut. No blood was spilt that night. No, it was just that gradual turning-up of the soft Chinese underbelly of social oppression and anxiety. It shows up every once in little social outbursts that you come to expect. And as quickly as it all began the now empty bus hummed its way down the road. Our young-slapper hasted his way into the shadows of the evening. Probably to get some rest. More than amused I was culturally grateful for being allowed to see this harmless and yet poignant exchange among fellow comrades.

In my opinion the drunk guys were just having a good old time. The college student became furious for some reason or another and decided to take it out on the wrong guy. The purple lady seemed priggish (maybe dead) but then again who really knows with purple ladies these days. And I guessed that the bus driver wasn’t going to have a good night when he went home to see his family.

But there we were on the corner of something and something that I can’t really pronounce in Chinese and our hearts were beating as the worlds beyond ours were expanding and bumping into each other in that soft cosmic interchange that happens when nobody seems to have a telescope.

The old men hailed a motorcycle-taxi. I secretly wished that they would do the same for me. But they didn’t. After they struggled getting on the motorcycle the one sandwiched in between his friend and the driver struck the drivers yellow helmet with force like a small child would do to indicate that it was time to go. I smirked. The men garbled out a laugh. The driver even smiled. The purple=stone-of-a-woman did not. She nothinged.

A bus came and the-purple-thing left.

I flagged down a motorcycle. I didn’t smack the driver’s helmet but I did pass the two men who were apparently nauseous from the ride. The one who struck the driver was now hunched over discarding the insides of his stomach on the pavement below. I was more than heartily impressed when he managed to wave me goodnight. The-purple-lady would have never done a thing like that.