“Heeegghhh,” he said.

“Aw yeah,” I said.

Just pretend you completely understand the guy, is what I told myself. Most of communication is body language anyway.

When we got to the next stop, he did the same thing all over again. To clarify the situation, I asked, “you want this one right here?”

“Uuuugghhhmm,” he said in return. He pondered Third and Columbia as one ponders the River Nile, a place of mystery and intrigue possibly too beguiling to enter timidly.

One headphone hung out one of his ears, and the other swung from a spare ear lobe. His head similarly lolled on and around the region of his upper neck. He wobbled about like a human slinky, and my old modern dance friends would’ve loved studying his movements, considering his center of gravity, a center which came from a plane invisible to all others. His mini-garbage bag chinked and crinkled with what sounded like a half-dozen beer bottles. A young man, bony and dark-olive skinned, enveloped by a loose black and olive jacket, him woozy and stretchy in the way where you’re starting to wonder how long it’s been since he’s made direct eye contact with anyone, when was the last coherent sentence….

This green light at the River Nile wouldn’t last forever. “You wanna step out here? Or maybe you wanna go up the street with me?”
“Huuggh. Yugh.”
“Yeah yeah, let’s go up the street,” I replied amiably, closing the doors.

When we arrived at Seneca he paused climactically on the edge of the doorway. People behind him, waiting to exit as well, were watching. Others outside waiting to board likewise had their eye on him. He squatted. He tensed his knees. Then he went for it, leaping as strenuously as though he’d read my mind regarding the Nile River analogy, diving down a full… ten inches, landing from great heights, spreading his arms out wide with high drama, for balance. Then he walked away.

As soon as he was out of earshot, the young black American man standing next to me, the mid-aged Asian woman in the chat seat, and the crisply dressed Caucasian thirty-somethings boarding all stood looking at each other for a second. We were united in each offering our own complimentary versions of questioning hand gestures, hilarious frowns, and raised eyebrows. What just happened? Who was that? More importantly, what was that?

By now we were all chuckling. The young man said, “everyone’s got they own problems.”
“So true!” I exclaimed.
“Some are just more entertaining than others!”
“I’m just trying to work up to that level of entertainment!”
“Ha!”
“We all have our own issues. I know I got mine.”
“Me too,” he said.

Don’t we all. Maybe pretending to jump from a great height when exiting a city bus isn’t the worst way to navigate through this crazy world.

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Article Author

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.