Saturday, November 07, 2009

Stop Number 17628

Normally I would do my shopping 'en masse' on a Saturday morning; picking up milk or bread during the week if I need to. However my uncle-in-law is in town for a week or so and has reclaimed the grotty old van I use sporadically for transport. So this morning I had to plan my shopping trip. I google mapped Claremont, found the bus stops, checked the routes and departure times for the return journey from the shopping precinct. My plan was to walk the mile to the supermarket, do the shop by weight, then walk the quarter mile back to the nearest bus stop and come home on bus No 24.

What I mean by 'shop by weight' is to buy only those things that I need which I can comfortably carry over a long distance; certainly further than the car park! Until the van returns large heavy items will need to be bought, and carried, individually.

I crossed the road going down the hill to stop number 17628, passing the gothic sandstone memorial to the numerous wars in which men and women from Claremont have fought and died over the last century. As I came nearer the stop I noticed a fellow staring at the timetable. This is a good thing, I haven't caught a bus here before and it is a sort of confirmation that indeed a bus would come. When I arrived at the shelter there was also a handsome young woman seated with her shopping. Excellent, I am not the only one with the same idea.

A phone started to ring, very similar to my own and after the initial surprise, the young woman liberated a red hand knitted sock from her pack and released a maroon mobile phone. Looking at the number on her phone a knowing smile crossed her face though it enigmatically disappeared as she answered it with a name. I picked myself up as an intruder and looked away. I noted more people with shopping coming down the hill. Perhaps my smart idea is more common place than I realised. The young woman says something in German, a language I adore, and I look back. A tear is rolling down the side of her face but her voice betrays no emotion to me. As she talks she wipes the tear from the other side of her face but her voice continues conversationally, her German more clear to me now that I recognise it; understanding little but the occasional word. Her hand crosses casually in front of her and wipes the tear closest to me away. When it is gone I know it has happened: she was crying, but her conversational tone betrays nothing.

My heart goes out to people in tears, particularly quiet restrained tears, and my chest constricts at what I think is her pain or grief. She is protecting someone, perhaps herself, her listener, or those around her now, by continuing to speak casually, attentive to her interlocutor. I look away again. Other people are arriving. A young couple with Subways, eager to scoff them before the bus arrives. A Japanese woman arrives and is also on the phone but there are no hidden depths there. I am reminded of another bus stop, near work in the city, some weeks before where a young woman answered a phone and burst into tears, talking a language I did not know, but the tears and emotion in her voice required no other understanding.

The bus turns the corner, the phone conversation has ended and the closely held turbulent emotions of the last few minutes are cast loose and dissipate in the westerly wind.


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