It was a crisp weekday morning - a perfectly ordinary San Francisco day in Fall. It must have been during my period of unemployment, after being fired from an office job that had long past its expiration date in terms of enjoyment anyway. The unemployment checks had been rolling in, which when added to my nightly tips at my waitressing job, left me happily and unexpectedly brimming with superfluous spending money and free afternoons.
I was waiting patiently for a bus at West Portal Station - my destination must have been the Mission district, as this was where this particular bus was destined for. Perhaps I was headed out for some shopping, or lunch at my favorite tapas restaurant that boasted lunch specials and cheap bottles of foreign beer. Maybe I was on my way to the small, privately owned women's spa that had a single-person steam room and a sun deck that allowed one to bask, unabashedly naked, in the sun - youthful tits pointed upward like an offering to whatever Greek God controlled such things. Whatever the case, there I sat on the bus bench, immersed in a book, minding my own.
What I do remember about that day, or what I remembered last night as I was falling asleep, three or four years after the fact, was the little blond girl, and the handwritten note I gave her grandmother.
She was a matronly, but still youngish woman sitting as poised as one can muster when perched in a fold-out seat. Slightly grey hair in a shampoo-set, wearing a sensible and tidy cotton outfit, clutching her gargantuan purse firmly in her lap while her little granddaughter - perhaps nine years old - ran rabidly and enthusiastically around her. The little girl asked her grandmother silly, nonchalant questions that were met with short, aloof answers. When the girl curiously ventured toward me, much to my delight (curious children always delight me) she was scolded for "annoying" me before I could croak out the answer to her question of what I was reading.
She twirled and flitted around the bus stop, ignorant to the annoyance in her grandmother's voice which grew more hostile with every innocent question (ones so charming I giggled behind my book at their creativity). She'd throw me a glance every few moments, to which I'd smile a silly smile and a wink to let her know I was in on the joke. Her grandmother noticed our exchanged, and told the girl to "quit showing off" her voice dripping with hostility.
This woman's behaviour upset me on so many levels, and I felt my heart growing heavy with disdain and. The little girl with tangled hair, wearing a mismatched outfit - she reminded me of myself as a child, you see. "Weird" - I got that label a lot. I didn't fit in. I was silly and imaginative and languidly backstroked through a world of my own creation - fueled by books and the view of the world I gleaned from them. It hurt me so much not to fit in, but I had no idea how to change. The teasing, the name calling, the ostracization. I'm so glad I learned to accept and embrace my mind, instead of conforming to the norm like I was supposed to.
While we sat on the bus, myself a couple rows back from the grandmother and her unique little ingénue, I composed a note to the older woman. The little girl was too young to notice that the grandmother disliked her, but I could hear it in her voice and it made me sick to my stomach. I had no idea how long they'd be on the bus, so I wrote quickly and ferociously, my hand cramping from my tight grip on my pen. They started collecting their things and pulled the "stop requested" lever somewhere around Guerrero and 22nd. I hurried to finish the note.
I don't remember what I wrote, but I do remember my heart racing as I wondered if I really had the nerve to hand the note off to this grandmother, to this angry old woman. It wasn't a mean letter, nor hurtful. I wrote about how her daughter was fun and creative - so full of life and that one day I hoped to be lucky enough to have a child like that, that it wouldn't be long before the little girl stopped caring what the woman said, and either mirrored her grandmothers disdain, or worse, stopped being creative altogether.
"You dropped something," I said to the grandma as she made her way towards the back door, and handed her the note.
"Oh!" she exclaimed as she took the note from my hand with a politeness she obviously reserved for strangers.
That was it. I don't know what happened next. She got off the bus and perhaps threw the scrap of paper away, thinking it was trash. Maybe she read it right there on the street and angrily threw it into the gutter, and was even meaner to her granddaughter for the rest of the day. Maybe she stuck it in her purse and read it when she got home that evening, finding it when she rummaged through her purse, looking for her keys.
Maybe it made her sad. Maybe it made them closer. I'll never really know. I'm glad I did it though. I'm glad I'm still that bold little girl I once was, who is silly enough to imagine that she can make a difference. I hope that girl at the bus stop is, too.