"The Bus Ride: A Tale of Love and Remembrance"
by John A. Huguley - Copyright © 2019
After a tiring day at work, drenched from the pouring rain, a man in his 30s seeks refuge on a crowded city bus. Among the sea of passengers, he spots an open seat next to a small, elderly woman. Without hesitation, he takes his place beside her, his gaze momentarily drawn to the delicate, weathered hands clutching a purse strap. Through the window, raindrops create ephemeral patterns, capturing the woman's attention.
With genuine concern, he softly speaks, "Hello, how is your day going?"
The woman turns her head slowly, inhaling deeply before posing an unexpected question, "Young man, are you married?"
The man's face brightens, his pride evident as he lifts his chin and replies, "As a matter of fact, I am! I am married to a beautiful woman named Olivia, and I can't wait to get home to her!"
Momentarily lost in her thoughts, the little lady returns her gaze forward, pausing for effect before continuing, "I was once married. His name was Jim. We met when we were in our twenties, and he was my soulmate."
Her voice quivering with a mix of emotions, she recounts their shared journey, "We built a life together... Our first home, every milestone, every joy, and every sorrow. And then, the doctors discovered his battle with lung cancer at the age of fifty."
The man's smile fades as he listens attentively, his heart heavy with empathy.
"He fought bravely, enduring countless treatments," she continues, her words laced with both sorrow and strength. "I stood by his side, holding his hand, until the day he left this world. He was only fifty-two. That was thirty-three long years ago. Since his passing, I have had to navigate this life alone. Yard work, shopping, household maintenance, bills... all on my own."
A solemn pause fills the air, the woman's grip on her purse strap tightening. And then, her voice crescendos, commanding the attention of fellow passengers, "I begged him to quit smoking, but he wouldn't listen. He disregarded my pleas. For years, I implored him to stop."
Tears well in the old woman's eyes as her voice trembles with a mixture of grief and resentment. "Now that Jim is gone, I hate him! I have despised him since the day he left me! If I could turn back time, I would choose a different path. Our marriage is no longer worth the loneliness that haunts me every single day. I would have preferred if he had gone to war and died defending our country or perished in a car accident. The memory of our entire marriage has been tainted by the day he abandoned me. Any fond recollections have vanished from my mind and heart."
As the bus rumbles forward, the woman's emotions overflow, her raw anguish pouring out, "I begged and pleaded, but Jim refused to make that sacrifice for me. I hate that 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 he burns in hell for the pain and loneliness he inflicted upon me."
With a blank expression, she turns to the young man beside her and softly murmurs, "Excuse me, this is my stop."
The elderly lady rises from her seat and gracefully walks to the front of the bus. The young man watches her through the window as the bus continues its journey. An overwhelming emptiness fills his chest, causing him to turn his gaze forward, closing his eyes in contemplation.
In a moment of introspection, he reaches into his coat pocket, retrieving a pack of cigarettes. His voice barely a whisper, he solemnly addresses himself, "I'm sorry, Olivia... I will never smoke again." With determination, he crushes the pack in his fist, releasing it to the floor.
Meanwhile, the little old lady, under the persistent rain, strolls a few blocks until she reaches her quaint blue house with a white picket fence. Unlocking the gate, she walks up the path to the front door, her key finding its place in the antique knob. The door swings open, and she steps into the warm embrace of her humble abode.
Inside, she removes her coat, hanging it on a nearby hook, and calls out, "Jim, I'm home!"
From the kitchen emerges a tall, sprightly old man, carrying two cups of tea. A smile adorns his face as he greets her, "How was your swim at the 'Y,' dear?"
Grateful for the familiar warmth, the old lady settles into her favorite armchair, her gaze meeting her husband's. She takes a sip of the tea, savoring the moment, before beginning to recount her eventful bus ride. “My day was good — 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 grins as she puts the teacup back to her lips.
Jim smiles, 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 as she shares her day.
Jim listens intently, his own smile mirroring hers. They lock eyes, sharing a profound understanding, as the evening envelops them in love, companionship, and mutual respect.
Copyright © 2019 – John A. Huguley