The best stories are bus stories, it seems.
I think the bus is a good place to be because there are no expectations. There’s no room for ‘awkward’ in a place where interaction unexpected and offence is off the radar. You’re out with strangers, and a stranger you are too. You have time for a only glimpse of anything, and there’s an easy escape for any situation: just walk away. (Or get off the bus.)
Today I was tired. 2 weeks of babysitting was finished.
Time to go home.
My feet hurt.
I stood on a less-crowded bus and watched the pink sun set as we creeped over the bridge. Traffic was bad. This short ride was going to be a long one. I thought about the nights I wished to watch the sunset in Spatsizi but went to bed instead. Mornings came early last summer.
Then I saw the two ladies sitting across the aisle. Friends. Not really old, but not young. Talking about boots. I know because they were fingering one of the ladies’ torn and smudged boots and pointing at mine. I smiled. They weren’t even mine. They are old ones of Marlene’s, worn and getting dirtier every day.
But they are Mongolian! (Not traditional. Basically Uggs) They make me feel better when I feel like a tourist. At least they’re not my hikers! No girl my age wears even sneakers here. It’s all about the boots.
Several minutes later the ladies were still discussing boots. Still pointing at mine. I catch their eye and smile and in response get two thumbs up and a slight phrase in Mongolian. Sounds like “I like your boots” but she speaks softly so I’m not really sure.
I smile back and take a step closer.
“Thank-you!” I say. “I’m from Canada but my boots are from Mongolia…”
They are surprised I speak any Mongolian at all and are very impressed.
I don’t say much more, only that I’m here studying language for 7 months and I came in November. I consider saying that the boots are not mine but a friend’s, but I’m scared the phrase in my head is actually “These boots ARE my friends.” I leave it be.
The ladies are still in awe that I spoke with them, and they are smiling.