From here, she looks angry. At whom? I have no idea. She’s just staring out the window, the corners of her mouth in a permanent frown as the world passes by, or as we pass by the world. Depends how you look at it.
Some of the young riders say she has “resting bitch face,” but you can’t go around saying that anymore. Shouldn’t have been saying it in the first place. It sounds like the kind of thing an angry boy said, and some mean girl heard him, and then it spread like wildfire.
I try not to stare. Not because I’ve got to keep my eyes on the road—that’s a given. Because it’s rude. Anyone with good sense or a good mom knows that. And I’m lucky enough to have both. But when I do glance up into the panel mirror to get a look at what’s happening on the bus, she always catches my eye.
It’s not that having an angry face is some spectacle. Lots of people have angry faces, whether they mean to or not. But it’s just that I can tell there’s something behind it. Maybe she’s not angry, but she’s something. She’s hurt or she’s stuck or she’s tired or hungry. I can’t tell. I don’t know.
No one’s ever asking anyone anything. At a certain age, they’re just yelling, crying out for attention, trying to do something to entertain the rest of the passengers. That’s puberty: a bunch of loud-mouthed, hormonal hooligans trying to figure out who they are on the way to school.
I try to run a tight ship, but on my salary, there’s only so much I’m willing to do. It’s hard enough to keep a packed city bus on schedule during rush hour. I know the fully-grown riders need to get to work on time, so, short of a fist fight—and trust me, there have been plenty of those—I’m not going to pull over to ask these kids to be nice to each other. That’s not my job.
She gets off when I stop at 5th & Jefferson, even in the rain. It’s a block away from the high school, but she always walks the last bit. I’m not sure if she’s escaping the noise and mayhem or enjoying a last breath of fresh air before entering school.
She’s not the only one, but hers is the only one I wait for. I don’t know whether I’m listening for something in her voice to indicate she’s okay, or waiting for the day she doesn’t say it so I can…
Tell everyone to get off, park the bus, and go into her guidance counselor’s office to tell them that something’s wrong? Just because she didn’t say thank you?
No, no, no, you don’t understand. Something’s wrong. She always says thank you.
No, I don’t know her name. She’s the one with the angry face. But she’s not angry.
I don’t know how I know she’s not angry. I don’t know how I know she’s in trouble. But I know. I just know. Sometimes you just know these things.
You have to do something. Save her. From what? Why are you asking me? I don’t know. I’m just the bus driver. This is your job.
Her stop: 5th & Jefferson. Today, like always, she says thank you and steps onto the curb. I nod politely and wait for her to get to the intersection.
As I drive past, I wave. She waves back. Kindness.