A road trip from Montreal to San Padre Island, Texas, by Brenda Henry
Bus number 50 goes straight into the heart of Memphis.
It was on this day we observed one random act of kindness after another.
We board the bus, pay and sit.
Three stops later, a senior man climbs aboard. He has no money but the driver welcomes him. The man takes a side seat. His hair is half matted, half sticking up like he slept rough.
Call him Mister.
His bottom lip protrudes and trembles. He's wearing a faded red sweater with a hole in one elbow, baggy tan pants and worn down work boots without laces.
Mister doesn't look at anyone. He's in his own world.
He mumbles to himself, straightens his body on the seat, looks around.
The bus stops, more passengers enter.
There is something arresting about Mister. I quietly observe him and wonder who he is and what stories he could tell me.
He digs deep into his pocket, pulls out a small stick of deodorant, removes the top and meticulously rolls the deodorant all over the outside of his clothing- arms, chest, armpits and the full length of his pants.
He puts the cap back on the deodorant, places it back in the same pants pocket, removes a tiny tube of toothpaste, uncaps it, squeezes out a blob and uses his index finger to rub it all over the inside of his mouth.
Mister smiles at nobody, stands up, takes a plastic comb out of his other pant pocket, rakes it back and forth through his tangled hair, smiles and moves to a different seat up front as if he's alone.
The bus stops. A well-dressed senior woman climbs in carrying two shopping bags and her large purse. She sits, arranges her bags and looks around.
Call her The Angel.
Her eyes land on Mister.
The Angel doesn't seem to know him but perhaps she sees something in him - a reminder of her own life.
She leans forward and speaks.
She's talking to Mister.
He doesn't hear her.
She tries again.
Mister hears something, turns his head, looks in The Angel's direction. Is she talking to him?
His face says, "Who would even want to acknowledge me?"
That's when The Angel reaches into her purse, takes out some dollar bills, folds them, gets up, walks over to Mister and hands him the money.
Do they know each other?
We are certain they do not.
Mister takes the money as if he can't believe this is happening.
He thanks The Angel.
She goes "uh huh" and walks back to her seat.
Three stops later, he disembarks.
The driver lets us off in the Memphis bus terminal.
We walk the streets.
We walk the streets.
We listen to the blues.
Memphis is the grandmother of the blues
Her life story transcends time
Her fingers are bent, her playing hands hardened
Every line in her face is a testament
She sings the truth about life
She can make you laugh until you cry
She can make you wail like a baby
Her words force you to take a cold hard look at yourself
She reads your soul like an angel
You can't bull shoot her
She will sit near you on a public bus in Memphis
And hand you her last dollar
And you will take it
Because she knows you better than you know yourself.
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