I got on the bus last night and it started off your normal bus ride. People filing on, no one out of the ordinary (which was out of the ordinary) just regular people going about whatever constitutes their regular day.
A big guy gets on the bus and sits in front of me. I’m facing the front of the bus and he’s facing the side so I can see everything he’s going to do.
Pretty quickly he starts going through one of the two backpacks he has with him. He’s pulling out the usual things, food, drink, papers. Electronic devices, a black knit hat with the word ‘Blessed’ embroidered on it which he was using to protect his own personal video game controller. He wiped the controller down, pressed a few buttons then carefully placed the controller back into the hat, folded it over so it was safe and then slipped it back into the backpack.
He rummaged around for another few minutes not taking anything out, just sort of feeling his way through it. He reaches to the absolute bottom of the bag and with great care he pulls another item out of his bag.
At first the item didn’t register. It quickly dawned on me but it was so out of the realm to see something like this here there was a moment of doubt. I’ve seen this item many times but usually at very specific places and a bus, until this moment in my life, had never been one of those places.
Then he began unscrewing the urn to take a peek inside.
An urn. There’s an urn on the bus. That guy carries an urn in his backpack. I hope we don’t hit a bump. But that is definitely an urn he’s looking into. Please close that urn, buddy. That is an urn on a bus. That is just like snakes on a plane. The only difference is that was a movie and I’m really on a motherfucking bus with a motherfucking urn.
I can’t take my eyes off this encounter. I watch his face as he stares into the urn of the ashes of a loved one. After what seems the runtime of Snakes On A Plane he starts to screw on the top of the urn. I was relieved. I’ve inhaled many things on many different busses but a person’s ashes, luckily, still isn’t one of them.
Then I watched as he held the urn while he reached into his backpack. He pulled out a pink elastic band the type you put around a tiny baby’s head and he wrapped that band around the urn one, two, three times until he was satisfied it was snug. After holding the urn for a beat or two he gently cradled it into a special place in his backpack. He zipped it up and tossed his arms over it.
People talk about carrying their pain and anguish and memories with them. Most try to submerge them so they can carry on some semblance of a peaceful life. But it’s too raw to that guy. He can’t close it. He has to carry that burden around with him because he can’t believe what he is always carrying with him didn’t have a better outcome.
I hope one day he does. And he puts that burden down.
Because it scares the hell out of the other passengers on the bus.