On The Bus With Andrew.

When you take the same buses a lot, and live in basically the same place you’ve lived all your
life, you start to see a lot of the same people. The neighbourhood characters as familiar as the
storefronts. Fellow bus passengers are unspoken allies, as you endure the indignity of public transit.

That’s why it was strange to see Andrew on the bus today. It took me a few minutes to place him, and my first reaction was, “That guy’s in the wrong place.” Weedy redheaded kid, sour expression, a kind of vague diappointment in his eyes. Plugged into a walkman, wearing a baggy shirt and chinos.

Then it twigged. I know him! The guy was the best writer I ever saw while teaching in Burnaby. Lots of kids can develop proficiency, even skill. But Andrew? Andrew always hit exactly home.

I sit on the bus and study the back of his head. The hair’s still just plain carroty, still messy. The kid hasn’t evolved any style in the three years since I’ve seen him.

I remember the essay held out to all of us at the marking meeting, for how we were going to grade Mock Provinical Exam essays. Give some kids an hour to write three undred words amd they fall apart. Not Andrew. He wielded his ability to write a character like he was holding an epee. His satire made Alexander Pope look a bit damp. The kid was really something.

He wrote his Mock Provincial from the viewpoint of a twentysomething Italian thug. With a passion for Cyndi Lauper. And that kid made us markers laugh and gasp and shriek with outrage at the persona he created.

I want to tap him on the shoulder, riding the bus behind him, and ask, “Hey, how are you?”

But his rumpled solitude is such that I think it would bother him or maybe even unnerve him.

So when I get off the bus, I walk straight by, and don’t say anything at all.

2 Comments to “On The Bus With Andrew.”

  1. By sarah, April 10, 2006 @ 4:00 am

    The bus is weird that way. Sometimes it’s a place to sit in a little bubble of aloneness. You are undoubtedly the coolest teacher this kid ever had for recognizing and respecting that.

  2. By Liz, April 10, 2006 @ 2:35 pm

    Either that or he was crying out on the inside for human contact, and I botched it.

    Thanks, though. 🙂

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