Voyages & Découvertes

Bus 58

Saturday 1 September 2007 by Marlen

From 1994 to 1999 I lived in Brooklyn, New York and attended my university studies at the Queens College Campus, in Kissena Boulevard. Most of my colleagues drove cars to school; I did not have this luxury, nor could I afford one at that time. I never thought of myself as an immigrant, although I was one. For most of the week, while commuting to school, I had to ride Bus Q58, from Brooklyn to Queens, and transfer to another bus at College Point Boulevard, bus which number I cannot remember now…maybe because it was only for a few stops.
I used to make such an effort to wake up, while outside it was still dark. My classes were starting at 8am and I needed at least one hour and fifteen minutes to reach my destination.

In the States, especially in busy cities like New York, Public transportation runs on a pretty fixed schedule. Unless there is some heavy snow and the streets have to be cleared, or a traffic accident which delays the normal traffic flow, buses come more or less on the dot, according to their schedule. At least during those years, they used to do so.

Every morning my routine was the same: I would carry my heavy bag (and to think now that only my Accounting book alone had around 700 pages and thick, heavy carton covers… you can’t imagine the weight on my back)… and I would walk ten “heavy” minutes to catch Bus Q58.

I rode that bus for 4 years and a half, four to five times a week, depending on my schedule, and got so used to the route. I visually memorized every house and building on the streets the bus was
passing through. There was this one house with 2 levels, situated on Fresh Pond Road, and around 7:00am, in the winter time, on the upper floor, the kitchen’s window was lit. A couple was sitting down at their breakfast table to have morning coffee or tea. Two old love birds : husband and wife, retired most likely.
I could only catch a glimpse of them from the bus, but that was enough to see the silverish wavy hair of the lady and the bold scalp of her companion. Seeing them like this, face to face, having breakfast, used to give me a feeling of good envy, if such thing exists, …a feeling I would yearn for, to wake up and not have to go to school…to sit with my old husband and enjoy the morning coffee…I used to think:” These two must feel so happy and cozy in their warm little corner”. And I continued thinking this and getting the same feeling every day the 58 bus passed on their street ?

Even if I was reading, when the bus would stopped on Fresh Pond Road,
I would rise my eyes and always see them there, at the same early hour, Sometimes they would rise their curious eyes and turn their faces
to the windows, looking at the bus, as if they would see through it… other times they would not even bother to move.
I don’t know if they ever saw me, but once I perceived the old lady gently nodding her head and smiling. Was she smiling at me? Or was it just a warm thought crossing her mind?

About six years later, while in Liberia, I was listening to a song by Joe Dassin, called “Le jardin du Luxembourg”….

Le jardin du Luxembourg
Ça fait longtemps que je n’y étais pas venu
Il y a des enfants qui courent et des feuilles qui tombent
Il y a des étudiants qui rêvent
Qu’ils ont fini leurs études
Et des professeurs qui rêvent qu’ils les commencent
Il y a des amoureux.
Ils remontent distraitement
Le tapis roux que l’automne a deroulé devant eux
Et puis,
Il y a moi, je suis seul, j’ai un peu froid.
Amoureux aux Jardins du Luxembourg
“The Garden of Luxemburg,
It’s been so long since I came last time,
There are children running and leaves falling,
There are students who are dreaming
To finish their studies
There are teachers who are dreaming
To begin their studies
There are lovers stepping absent-mindedly
On the red carpet untwined by autumn in front of them
And then,
There is ME, I am alone,
I feel a little cold. “

And listening to the lyrics of this song, many years after, I thought about the same…. Many years passed since I last took a ride on Bus 58 and stopped at the usual stop, in front of the old couple’s house….and asked
myself…if I would pass again, today, would they still be there, together,
older, or maybe I would only see one, or none of them, maybe there will be a heavy curtain covering the window of the new tenants …would the house still be there, is bus 58 having the same route??

A crazy chain of thoughts came to my mind, but out of all, one thing I knew: as I sometimes wished to be old and staying home, every morning, themselves at times wanted to be young once more and passengers of that bus. I also knew that I would never return to ride that bus again.

On Bus 58, I braided dreams and hopes…. It was my bus to happiness…each stop along the way would take me closer and closer…until I reached final destination: my graduation. I was soon to find out that from there onwards I was beginning another journey.

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