My favorite seat on a passenger bus is the door side where it seats just two abreast, the area over the right front tire. This is because I have short legs, and most of the buses that ply EDSA seem to have been built for basketball players who’ve had their steroid shots. Sitting over the tire bump allows me a usable lap on which I can place my heavy Targus knapsack.
Sitting on this spot on the way to work is almost a sure thing each day, as my stop is at the “butas”, or the literal hole in the wall that Baltao Subdivision has provided for the convenience of the airport workers who are residents here. When the buses pass by here they are almost empty, and what few passengers left in it usually go down at the NAIA. When the bus takes the right turn into Aquino Avenue (formerly known as Imelda Avenue) that’s where it starts to fill up, and sometimes it becomes SRO even before the left turn into MIA Avenue towards Dewey Boulevard, which of course is now known as Roxas Boulevard. It’s always been Dewey Boulevard in my head and in my heart. Especially that part that is now the frontage of Uniwide Coastal Mall (Coastal, yes, that’s another name they call that stretch of Dewey), where my siblings and I used to take a dip in Manila Bay with our yayas on a Saturday morning.
Sitting on this side of the bus affords me a view of the other not-so-lucky would-be passengers waiting by the stops along Dewey, especially at the mouth of Domestic Road and Baclaran. Sitting here I am almost obvlivious of the steady comings and goings on the aisle at Heritage, MRT Taft, Malibay, Evangelista, Magallanes. It gets calmer after Pasay Road and Ayala, and almost quiet by the time we get to Buendia. There’s two stops at Estrella, the main one on Harvard Street that connects to Kalayaan, and the one I get off at—the pedestrian overpass.
This ride to work takes anywhere between 40 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on what day it is. On the worst Wednesday morning it took me more than 90 minutes to get to work, 60 of which were spent crawling like a slug through the traffic of Baclaran.
Most of the buses have curtains, which are most of the time still tied into a knot. I usually leave mine as is, because I like watching the street and reading signs. I didn’t realize until this morning that leaving the curtain up may be dangerous to my health, or at least my seatmate’s.
While most of the time I was oblivious even of my seatmate, this morning I couldn’t help being jolted awake. There I was sitting as usual with my head partially resting on the glass window when my seatmate suddenly pulled the curtain on my window closed. It was quick and sudden, the way she did it hinted that she was quite adept at yanking at stuff. I couldn’t help myself not to look at her after a while. She was very light-skinned, faux blonde, hepatitis written all over her.
Hepatitis is what we call people who have an unusual amount of gold jewelry on their person. This one had the works. Rings, bracelets, necklace, earrings, you name it. But I guess it wasn’t her jewelry she was trying to protect, it was her papain-treated skin. This morning she had the misfortune to sit beside someone who happens to like having the sun on her face. She did something about it tout suite, of course. And although I was tempted to yank the curtain open again, I decided against it. Let her have her sunscreen.
When I got off at my stop she was still there, headed for Ortigas maybe, or Cubao where entrepreneurs hawk gold and silver on the sidewalk. Maybe she was on her way to the EDSA Shrine to join the mounting number of rallyists shouting “GMA Resign.”
Anything is possible.