Picture 5


Two teens board at Henderson. They walk to the back, then immediately turn around and walk back up, looking for seats as far away from the back lounge as possible. That’s odd. It’d be pretty hard to explain this to Rosa Parks, but today’s youngsters of color often do their best to avoid the front of the bus.

“We gonna sit up front,” one of the boys says. They’re scrunched in the two seats closest to me. “It’s some nasty shit on the floor back there!”
It’s a mixture of urine and malt liquor–a mixture I suggest avoiding at home! Out loud, in the interest of decorum, I say, “yeah, I don’t know what that is!”
“Shit was sticky.”
“Always an adventure out here!”
They laugh in solidarity. “You don’t gotta clean that shit up, though, right?”
“No, I’m gonna leave it for the cleaning lady!” She’ll know what to do.
The second boy chimes in with, “I know you don’t gotta clean it, cause you ain’t pissed off! They couldn’t pay me extra to touch that shit! I’d be like, fuck that five bucks!”
They’re rolling into each other, like a connected single being, arching out the same sentence in two voices. “They couldn’t pay me,”
“Fuck that five bucks!”
“Couldn’t pay me five to go and look at it!”
“Yeah, couldn’t pay me five!”
“I’m glad it don’t smell too funky,” I say. “I mean, it cooouuuuuld be root beer, but….”
Boy one, choking out a laugh: “‘Could be root beer,’ he says!”
“How’s the night been for you guys?”
They respond in a hesitant key.
“Uh oh,” I say.
“Yeah. Strange, pretty strange. One of the strangest nights we’ve ever had.”
“Okay. Okay. I hope strange not in a bad way,”
“Aw, strange in all kind a ways, good, bad,”
“You got everything, the good the bad the ugly?” Don’t know if they’ve seen the great Sergio Leone film, but I may as well recommend the title by way of subterfuge.
“Yup, the good the bad and the ugly!”
“It’s getting gooder though.”
“Yeah, and they was some good. The girls were good. I’d say that was the best part.”
“There you go.”
“‘There you go,’ he says. And we smoked some good weed.”
“Uh huh.”
“And it’s getting gooder now, yeah,”
The other one continues: “and the yeah. Good always wins at the end of it. The good always outweighs the evil.”
“Iss getting gooder,” nods Boy Two. “This bus ride right here is all better!”
I’m interested in Boy One’s thought. I continue his sentence to see if he’ll elaborate. “At the end of the day,”
“Yeah. At the end of the day, there’s always more good. Jus’ like in the movies, you know,”
“Shit always ends up workin out,” his friend explains.
Boy One says, “And I’m glad they put it in the movies like that. ‘Cause it’s, it’s, it’s,”
“Like a reminder?” I say.
“Yeah, a reminder.”
“Always a light at the end of the tunnel,” I say.
“Yeah, ain’t no tunnel goes on forever.”
“Like they say, the night is always darkest before the dawn.” There I go, quoting another film.
“The night is always darkest before the dawn, you know?”

I’m so glad they both think that way. Does it even matter if it’s true or not? Of course there’s no way to definitively know one way or another. But if you find a perspective from which to view the universe that allows you to see and emphasize the good, to notice and contribute to the idea of a just universe, well, wouldn’t that be a good thing? For the sake of one’s sanity, for the sake of belief in good works? Why not work toward the decency and excellence that exist all around us, that we might appreciate it more often, and take part in it more regularly? Thank you, young boys, for your perspective. There’s wisdom lurking beneath the surface.

Article Author
Nathan Vass
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Nathan Vass is an artist, filmmaker, photographer, and author by day, and a Metro bus driver by night, where his community-building work has been showcased on TED, NPR, The Seattle Times, KING 5 and landed him a spot on Seattle Magazine’s 2018 list of the 35 Most Influential People in Seattle. He has shown in over forty photography shows is also the director of nine films, six of which have shown at festivals, and one of which premiered at Henry Art Gallery. His book, The Lines That Make Us, is a Seattle bestseller and 2019 WA State Book Awards finalist.