BY PHILLY GRRL Wednesday morning. I stand in front of the Arch Methodist Church on Broad and Arch and wait in vain for the Temple shuttle bus to appear. It does not. So when the C bus rolls to a stop, I hesitate a moment, then join the throng of passengers boarding. I’m not sure if I have a token or even enough change to pay the fare, but it is cold outside and the bus driver has sympathetic eyes so I hurry in before she closes the door. There are a few empty seats towards the front, generally saved for the elderly and disabled, but in my haste, I take my three bags, shove them into the nearest available space and go to pay the driver.
When I go back to my seat and sit down, it takes me a few moments to notice the pair of tiny, black eyes staring at me. Two girls, twins, in identical dark brown plush satin coats with hoods lined in faux fur are staring at me from a giant sage green double stroller taking up the entire front aisle. The girl in front is sleepy, she merely blinks. Her sister behind her is more awake, she points at my orange coffee cup. I point back. She smiles and waves, then coos.
The bus stops at Spring Garden for a man with crutches, whose right leg is encased in a blue cast. I stand up to give him my seat. “Sit down,” he says. The bus moves. The man stands in the aisle, next to the stroller. He is afraid to sit while the bus moving, in case he falls. “Two times,” he mumbles. “Two times in three weeks I broke my leg.” He looks at me and the young man with the Malcolm X glasses sitting cattycorner to me. “Christmas day,” he announces. “I broke my leg Christmas day.” One of the girls in the stroller reaches out and wraps her pudgy hand around his crutches. He smiles down benevolently. “What I would give to be that age again,” he says mournfully. “What I would give.” The young man with the glasses holds his crutches so he can sit down. At the next step, the bus driver lowers the bus so the mother can take her two girls out of the bus and into the biting cold.
Another mother enters at Girard, also with two girls. The youngest girl is singing, “Market, to market, to market we go.” They are headed to the Fresh Grocer, right down the road, before Temple.
“Do you have any money to go to the market,” asks her mother.
“Yes,” says the girl emphatically.
“Where is your money?” asks the mother playfully. “Give it to me.”
“It’s at my grandma’s house,” says the girl, “Let me go back and get it.” When they exit the bus, the girl is still singing her market song. I get up to leave the bus. One bag. Two bag. Three bag. All set. The man next to me taps me. On the bus seat are my house keys, which have fallen out of my pocket. I thank him.
“No problem,” he says. “No problem.”