SEPTA GIRL: The Only Ones

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[Photo byEDWARD NOBLE]

BY PHILLY GRRL When not riding SEPTA semi-professionally for Phawker, I tutor kids K-12 on behalf of the Philadelphia School District. As part of my resolve to ride on every single bus route in Philadelphia, I blithely hop onto the 23 Bus for the first time to meet a student in Mt. Airy.  The bus is packed with the after-school student crowd. To the left of me, two schoolgirls in plaid, scarlet-colored uniforms are semi-surreptitiously eating large SeptaGirl_2.jpgslices of cheese pizza. To the right of me a woman is screaming into her cell-phone about a girl friend who cheats at cards at their weekly girl’s poker nights. “She’s such a bitch,” she says. “I can’t believe her!” I settle in to sleep. It’s a long ride from Center City to Chestnut Hill. Not even midway though the ride, the student calls me. “I can’t come today!” he says, sounding frantic. “Have you taken the bus yet? Don’t get on the bus!” Too late. I get up and stretch. And groan. It is raining. Hard. And I have no umbrella.

When I step off the bus near Broad and Allegheny, the rain is coming down full force. Potholes are filled to the brim with oily, rainbow-hued water. I grimly plow through the downpour to the C Bus stop and get there just in time to watch my bus pull away. Adding insult to injury, it hits a puddle that drenches me. I try to run after it, but to no avail. I start walking. The subway stop is about five blocks south of me. It stars raining harder. I duck into the pizza shop across from Temple’s dental school. The three men in the shop grin. I order a slice, plain. Behind the register, there is a large poster of the Obama family. I have seen this picture before and for reasons unclear in this version the dresses worn by the Obama women have been tinted a strange shade of green. The man behind the counter tries to hand me his Loony Tunes umbrella. “You know you got the hookup, girl,” he said. I smile back.

“It’s okay,” I decline.

I start walking again. At the platform, a boy with a tennis racquet stares at me quizzically. “Is it raining that hard outside?” he asks. “Or did you walk far?” I nod. He offers me umbrella. I demur. His classmates come down the steps. Temple medical students. I slip behind a pillar. I don’t want to see anyone I know. The students are all young. Some of them wear green and blue scrubs and carry large backpacks. They are Indian and Asian and Caucasian. They are talking about a party. Turns out tennis racket boy had been drinking hard that weekend. There are compromising pictures on Facebook. Someone slept with someone else. They laugh. The express comes by. They freeze and cover their ears. They are the only ones.

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