After a long day at work, a man in his 30s steps out of the pouring rain and onto a city bus full of passengers. The first open seat is next to a small elderly woman. He sits down next to her. He glances at her frail, vein-covered hands gripping her purse strap as she gazes at raindrops running down her window.
He politely says to her, "Hello, how is your day going?"
She slowly turns her head towards him, inhales deeply, and asks, "Young man, are you married?"
The man smiles, then lifts his chin, and proudly says, "As a matter a fact, I am! I am married to a beautiful woman named Olivia, and I can't wait to get home to her!"
The little lady turns back forward, takes a long pause, and says, "I was once married," she stops again as if she is thinking of what to say next. Then she says, "His name was Jim. We met when we were in our twenties. He was my soulmate."
She continues while taking deep breaths between sentences, "We built a life together... We bought our first home together. We did everything together. I was by his side when the doctors discovered he had lung cancer at the age of fifty."
The young man's smile disappears as he listens closely.
The old lady continues, "When my Jim started his treatment, I was at the hospital every day, holding his hand until the day he passed away. He was fifty-two when he died. That was thirty-three long years ago. Since my husband's death, I've had to do everything on my own. I do the yard work by myself. I do all the shopping by myself. I do all the maintenance around the house, and I struggle to pay the bills by myself."
The old lady pauses for a moment and clinches her purse strap tighter. She continues, "I asked my husband to stop smoking, but he wouldn't listen to me. He refused to hear my pleas. For many years I begged him to stop.
The little woman's voice raises to the point that other passengers are now listening, "Now that Jim is gone, I HATE him! - I've hated him ever since he left me! If I could go back to the day we met, I would turn and walk in the other direction. Our marriage was not worth this loneliness that I go through every day of my life. I would've rather he went away to war and killed defending our country or died in a car accident. He destroyed the memory of our entire marriage the day he left me. Any good memories that I had disappeared from my mind and my heart."
The old woman's eyes water up the more she speaks. Her voice quivers, "I begged and pleaded with him, but Jim refused to do that for me. I hate the selfish son of a bitch for not quitting for his wife. I gave my life to him, and he left me to fend for myself for the last thirty-three years. As much as I once loved him, I hope that he burns in hell for the pain and loneliness he put me through." With a blank look on her face, she turns to the young man and says, "excuse me, this is my stop."
The little old lady stands and walks to the front of the bus. The young man stares out the window at her as the bus pulls away. Now feeling hollow inside, he turns forward and closes his eyes. He takes a deep breath, then reaches into his coat pocket. He pulls out an open pack of cigarettes. He whispers to himself, "I'm sorry, Olivia... I will never smoke again." Then he crushes the pack of cigarettes in his fist and drops it to the floor.
The little old lady strolls a few blocks in the rain until she reaches her small blue house with white picket fence. She enters her gate and walks up the path to the front door. On the porch she places her key into the antique knob and pushes the large white door open.
Once inside the warm inviting little house, the lady hangs her coat on a hook and shouts, "Jim, I'm home!"
Suddenly, a tall vigorous old man steps from the kitchen with two cups of tea and says, "How was your swim at the ‘Y’ dear?"
The old lady replies, "It was great!" as she settles into her favorite armchair. She continues, "Jim — a young man sat next to me on the bus. I could smell cigarettes on his breath and coat, so I told him a little story."
The little woman smiles as she puts the teacup to her lips.
Jim grins, sits down in his armchair next to her, and takes a sip of his tea, "Go on dear, what story did you tell this time?"
They both look into each other’s eyes and smile as she shares her day.
Copyright © 2019 – John A. Huguley
John A. Huguley is a writer of several different genres.
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