It’s Thursday evening and it’s nice to be back on the bus.
I have been in New York City two nights in row for my Tuesday Night Writers Group and a work event I had on Wednesday evening. Now I’m on my way back to my home in New Hope.
Because my Writers Group ends after the last bus leaves New York, I rent a room from a friend in Brooklyn on Tuesdays. This guy is the perfect friend to rent a room from because we know each other, but not so well that there is an obligation to chat every time I stay over. This was essentially the same thing I was looking for in a relationship for several years– to get my needs met without really having to discuss anything in depth.
Often on the nights I stay, I climb the stairs at 11pm after he is already in bed and sneak into my little room from its entrance in the outside hallway. Inside the room is tiny with a window, a few shelves and a mattress on the floor that pretty much takes up the entire room. I feel a little like Anne Boleyn being held captive in a Tower of London before her beheading but find it oddly comforting. In the morning, I often tiptoe out before he is awake. We can go weeks without exchanging a single word in person.
This morning he texted to me You are like a ghost
You’d think I grew up like Harry Potter or David Copperfield—an unwanted British orphan relegated to living in a closet. I do definitely identify with those lovable ragamuffins in my own way. I spent hours of my childhood in our dark attic to escape the chaos of my often out-of-control family. When you are the youngest of five and your hip mom prides herself in being able to expertly talk people down from bad acid trips, life can be a little overwhelming.
As a result, I am very good at and comfortable with sneaking around and leaving as little footprint as possible. I would have made a great spinster aunt living in my little doily-filled upstairs room. I also would have been an excellent Unabomber in a shed in the remote regions of Montana if circumstances had been different.
Maybe I like the sense of control I have in my room with the mattress. For that night, I am in a self-contained universe. I quietly read, I eat a piece of fruit and no one has any opinions about it.
I was thinking about this after an interesting thing happened on the bus a few days ago. A woman was talking loudly on her phone annoying the rest of us and causing me to fantasize about wrestling her into the aisle and strangling her to death in front of everyone when suddenly the bus driver exploded.
EXCUSE ME! EXCUSE ME! HANG UP THE PHONE NOW. HANG…UP..THE…PHONE…NOW‼‼
My mouth was hanging open as I watched this transpire. I was floored.
Until that moment, I thought he was just a bus driver—a common everyman whose main job was to keep to the bus schedule. But I realized with some awe that he had power over all of us. He was the ruler of our lives during that bus ride. He could make us do whatever he wanted us to do. I mean, if you think about it, he literally has our very lives in his hands. If the lady didn’t get off the phone he could have steered us into a brick wall in Weehawken, New Jersey causing the bus to explode into flames. That’s probably what I would have done.
I envied his power with all my heart.
My husband Saul thinks I’m very controlling.
This is funny because it’s true, but also because he’s really just upset that he has met his match.
Saul wishes he could control a lot things about me. He wishes I would grow a beard again. He is at odds with all my friends and coworkers who tell me I look much younger when I’m clean-shaven. So far they and the illusion of youth are winning
Saul also wishes I picked up my socks. I tell him if he can find a bearded sock–picker-upper who has all the wonderful qualities I have then by all means he should go for it. I will not stand in his way.
On the other hand, I wish Saul didn’t eat his Halo ice cream so nosily when we watch Gilmore Girl reruns at night. He aggressively clangs his spoon against the bowl as if he just might be able to dig deep enough into the ceramic dish to find a little more.
I also wish he didn’t write Facebook posts violently cursing people who voted for Trump. I try to explain that if fighting about politics on Facebook solved problems, we’d pretty much have everything solved right now. Plus, if my 89-year-old Trump-voting Aunt ever reactivates her Facebook account we might be taken out of her will. I helpfully suggest he mediate about peace instead, but he only glares daggers at me while hostilely typing an angry response to someone on his iPhone.
Knowing when to try to control and knowing when to let go seems to be a lifelong lesson. As my friend Leanne says, “I keep having to learn it over and over, and now getting old is the ultimate lesson in letting go”
It’s hard not to be jealous of a bus driver in a world where it feels like our President may start a nuclear war because he wants his poll numbers to go up or looks at backing down or apologizing as weakness. I’m pretty sure people voted for him because they thought he would control the country like that bus driver controls the bus. So far, it feels to me like our country is dangerously close to hitting that Weehawken wall.
People say the world is only getting worse but I don’t know if those who fought in the Civil War or perhaps the slaves brought to America or the Jews rounded up and taken to concentration camps would agree. Sure, nuclear war is a scary horrible thing, but so is being beaten to death by someone who supposedly your master, or dying of starvation after being operated from your family. I just hope that despite appearances, some days it’s maybe getting a little better? I mean, I got to get married to a man last year. And we did finally elect a woman pres…oh wait.
We all have our limits. The bus driver can’t control traffic and one day my Tuesday night landlord will want to move or use my little room for himself.
Helen Keller once said, Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing
I have my issues with Helen. She’s a little bit of a know-it-all and is kind of full of herself, but I do think she has a point. The other night in New York I was sitting on the corner of 44th and 9th watching the parade of people go by and seeing all the ways they struggle to remain human—all their vastly creative survival techniques on full display.
That’s all we are trying to do I think—find our little safe space in this world with a soft spot to lay our head.
So as I head home to New Hope, I will try to be more forgiving.
We need forgiveness desperately these days and it’s that much more precious when it’s that much harder to give. And boy, can it be hard to give some days. So maybe I won’t start big with forgiving the white extremist. Maybe I’ll start small by forgiving Saul and his Halo Top ice-cream.
About the Author: Keith Hoffman is thinking about trying out a Fu Man Chu moustache as a compromise to his husband.
P.S. I’m heading to Ohio and Indiana to see my family on Tuesday. Thank God Saul has no political views and no one in my family voted for Trump! (This is funny because it’s not true).
See you in two weeks!