I wondered what was taking her so long. Then I saw Mom standing still, like a bent fork of some sort. She usually walks ahead of us on our way to school, but this time she was seemingly unable to keep up. She was bending over and saying that she was O.K., and to just give her a second. I wanted to ask her what was wrong, but she always had a way of talking without really saying anything. She seemed kind of tired or out of breath or something. She said, “O.K., well, I guess we’re going to be late for school again today.” I didn’t even care if we’d be late. School was the last thing that was on my mind.
My feet were hurting from walking so much, but I could tell that Mom’s feet were hurting pretty badly too, because she was kind of limping already, plus she told us earlier and very directly I might add, that they hurt. She also had a way of talking in such a direct way, that we knew exactly what she was feeling, and usually at every, single, second of the day. Sometimes it would get annoying, but as annoyed as I would sometimes become, I’d rather have her be chatting away about some nonsense, mumbo-jumbo crap, than having her be upset or hurt about something that she was sharing, or even worse, that she wasn’t sharing.
Mom would always share everything with my brother and me. I really love that about my Mom. My friend’s parents never seemed to talk to them about their private lives, and what they’d do throughout their days when their kids were in school, but my Mom did, and I liked it. Sometimes, she’d ask me and my brother, “Am I sharing too much with you guys?” And I’d think definitely no, and I’d tell her so as well. I loved the way she was open and would tell me her feelings, and I’d hate it when she’d get too quiet. Whenever should get too quiet, I’d know that she was upset about something. Mom was rarely ever quiet and, if she was, it would be obvious that something was really wrong. Not that her quiet moments lasted very long, because they didn’t. But they’d last long enough to know that she was upset.
As we were walking, my Mom told my brother and me to wait for just a second. She was clearly out of breath again and, I just knew that her feet were hurting because I’d see that there was a hole in her socks every day and sometimes had blood on it too. Seeing the bubble-like blister that she had on her foot the once was nearly traumatizing and genuinely hard to look at. Even though it was gross, I looked anyway, feeling bad for her. I just never knew what I could do to make her feel better, other than put my arms around her. I’d usually follow that by ever-so-casually leaving the room.
My face naturally contorted into a sad expression as I remembered the bubble-like blister she had. So we waited until Mom caught her breath, and then we took off again heading towards the school. It’s too bad the public bus system doesn’t have a stop closer to the school. That’s another reason that I feel bad complaining to Mom about my feet hurting. She not only has to walk a mile and a half extra to the school like us because the bus doesn’t stop closer, but she has to walk twice as much. That’s two extra times so that she can go back home after dropping us off and picking us up when school would end. Damn public transportation! But, you know, I guess things could be worse.
Sometimes we’d meet nice people on the bus and they’d usually have perma-grins on their faces. The nice people usually sat in the front of the bus, with us. Mom always liked to sit in the front, because she said it feels safer and she doesn’t want us to be around strangers because sometimes, they’re bad people, but not always. She also said that sometimes people on the bus would stare at her, and it made her feel uncomfortable. I think that they’d more so, stare at her because she was pretty, and even when she was ugly. But she said it was because they didn’t like her. She’d never really tell us why they didn’t like her, but I knew that she’d never lie to me or my brother. The strangest thing that I could never really understand though, was why Mom would prefer to sit in the front, where there were always people staring.
I used to be afraid of some of the other people that were on the bus, but mom would say, “Don’t be afraid,” but she’d also say, “Don’t stare!” She said that some people would stare because they couldn’t help it and that they were different than us, but not any better or worse. She even said that sometimes, the people that would stare a lot, like this one man that I remember that, wouldn’t stop staring at me—are usually smarter than a lot of other people. I’m not sure how she’d know that, but I believed her. Even though there was once this man that wouldn’t stop staring at me. I thought he was so creepy, until Mom told me that he was nice. She had a way with talking to strangers. She would talk to strangers all of the time and sometimes to strangers that didn’t have a home like us, or even food to eat. She told my brother and me never to call them bums, and to call them homeless people or less fortunate people instead.
Mom was afraid of the homeless people, but not because they were scary, but because they were dirty and sometimes, she would wash her hands more frequently than most other moms probably did, but she’d say, that was how she knew that her hands were always clean for us when she’d cook us dinner. I don’t think that it was necessarily a bad thing either. My brother is the same way, only instead of cleaning his hands more frequently, he likes to make sure that the silverware that he uses to eat with are entirely spotless.
But even though Mom was afraid of touching hands with the people that didn’t have homes or food, she would still give them things like her leftover food or blankets. Once she even bought a sandwich for a homeless man who we saw in a Subway restaurant that ended up being the same guy that we saw sitting towards the back of the bus, while we rode. Mom thought that it was so ironic. Even though at first, she didn’t believe that it was the same guy. But I knew it was, because I remembered his face. I never knew what the word “ironic” meant until she told us how strange it was that we helped out this guy one time, and then we saw that we were in a similar situation as him, riding the bus and all, only we had a home to return to and food to eat.
Riding the bus wasn’t so scary. I don’t know why mom was so scared when we first started to ride it, because it’s really just like the yellow, school buses that some other schools had, only on this one, the people didn’t know each other. It was kind of fun actually, because sometimes, Mom seemed happy when she would take us to school, I mean, except when she was out of breath with sore feet and all. But when she would be explaining things to us that we’d see on the way, and how she’d tell us about the different people that we’d meet.
My brother would tell Mom, how cute he thought she was because of the way that she would cry and laugh at the same time, and even though I never said anything to her, and I would just stare at her, I kind of thought it was cute too. Sometimes, she’d cry right after she’d help someone by giving them her food, but I never knew why. She would usually just tell my brother and me that she was such a softy, and that we must’ve thought she was crazy, but I never did. Sometimes Mom would help the people that didn’t have food or a place to live even when she was upset about something. But I never liked it when she would feel bad and, sometimes she did, because she didn’t have anything to give people that she’d see. I hated seeing her upset or sad—It made me sad, but I tried not to show her, and to stay strong, thinking that me crying or acting like I felt sorry for her wouldn’t help her feel better, and it would probably only make her feel even worse.
Now, when I think about how we used to ride on public transportation, I kind of miss it—Well, sort of. Even though I don’t miss the way that we used to walk so much in between stops, I miss the fact that we’d always talk to nice strangers along the way and hear their stories. I never really understood what they were saying in their stories, but that was probably, mostly because I was always so distracted watching Mom and how their stories made her smile. But I think that that’s what I liked the most, the fact that she saw people as special and unique, and even when they looked and acted different than us.
I liked seeing Mom smile, and when we wouldn’t have to walk, she would smile even more. And in those moments when I’d see her smile, I’d sometimes forget that my feet were hurting so much from walking. And I could say that, without Mom directly telling me, or even talking without saying anything, I knew that she didn’t feel the pain in her feet either, at least in that moment, because she was smiling and seemed happy when she’d be talking to the people on the bus. Even though we only rode public transportation for a few months or so, I feel like I learned a lot and also that public transportation isn’t really all that bad. In fact, I like it.