There’s nothing romantic about the belching, wheezing bus I take every night from Times Square to my New Jersey hometown. The trip is bookended by grouches: a uniformed dispatcher at Gate 412, who yells at us weary commuters to stand in a straight line, and my own beloved kids, whose initial excitement to see me fades to a lament over the weird bread I packed in their lunches. But in between verbal assaults, as my chariot lurches through the Meadowlands at dusk, I sink into a plush seat with a good book and settle peacefully, gratefully into my life’s best approximation of alone time.
This contentment surprises me every time. Maybe I’m relieved that somebody else is in charge for a change; or maybe, between the battling bands of home and work, my bus strikes just the right note of white noise. It’s the only part of my day that’s completely predictable, when I’m one in a million and lost in a crowd, which is a delicious feeling for a mother of three. When the sun finally drops, and the dim overhead lights fail to illuminate my page, I glance out the window into the reflection of my own eyes. There you are, I think. Still chugging along.