i never got to say goodbye to my friend in the straw hat

1. we’d sit together, each monday through friday, on the oversized city bus. she a palette of floral pale pinks & lemonade yellows. me of hand-me-down striped flannels & denim hues.

2. her crisp canvas tote stocked of composition notebooks & no. 2 pencils. mine of ratty romance novels & juicy fruit packs.

3. tangled legs of black cotton hose tucked under vinyl seats. belongings of half-baked beliefs secured overhead.

4. a daily dose of documented delight. she on for twelve stops, two past my first. i’d depart one before her. & often, though not always, remember a goodbye.

5. always a friend of fashion & feist, she’d wear the hat of straw no matter the weather.

6. despite barriers of language & schedule, we’d whisper, giggle, & bond over nothing & everything.

7. she’d speak of T. often. in hushed tones and soft breath. eyes of sea-green twinkles would wink & wave. he waits for me. for dinner. whether lamb chops or left-over sandwiches. each day.

8. i never knew her language well enough to know the extent of their love. i never knew her struggles either. i knew only the lucky lived to linger amidst love of such sincere flavor.

9. one day, the bus arrived without her. the next day, too. i’d sigh & settle, then watch for signs of my friend beyond the red octagons and yellow yields. hope for serendipity & surprise redemption.

10. i’d keep the worn fabric seat empty in case of mistake or turned fortune. my canvas tote, a new companion. paper games of words and crosses on display. friendship delayed.

11. only empty seats are tokens of envy & someone moved my parcel, my puzzles, and my wait of indeterminate suspense.

12. one day a younger version of herself – eyes of sea-green, hat of straw — boarded. our eyes locked & she then warmed the then empty vinyl seat to my left. i knew then nothing would ever be right. again.

14. i don’t usually take this line, she whispered. i needed to, she said. i needed her to, as well.

15. we traded pictures, numbers, and nods amidst transportation mobs.

16. i never got to say goodbye, i whispered. me neither, she nodded then dropped. tears of tired limbs. twinkles of sea-green eyes. lashes of lost love. there was no time.

17. now her daughter rushes home to eat with T. he waits for me. for dinner. each day. no matter the weather.

18. they eat alone. i ride alone. tradition trails time and translations.

19. the oversized city bus persists along predetermined routes as life persists unrouted.

20. seats shift. shifts settle. sighs linger.

i never got to say goodbye to my friend in the straw hat.

Written by Jen Schneider – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

Feature Photo by Ant Rozetsky 

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