The accent. I knew him from before. The vowels drawled out in between clipped consonant edges, a straining against the upper mouth, little enthusiasms in every double vowel. Did he stem from a country of one? Who else sounds like this? Black hair spiked up, flaxen gold skin, leather, sunglasses that didn’t frown, the sharp teeth grinning besides. He was a hairdresser, and there was no one else like him.
How could I forget his first words to me, years ago? The friendly and unknowable voice, loudly. The proclaiming voice. “You shoul’ be driver of da yeeeeah, man! Not of duh month. Of duh yeeeeah!!”
Today I watched him transform into sunshine upon seeing me, alignments of posture and expression reborn, the body coming together now, no longer a tired man after a long workday. Sure, it’s just an acquaintance seeing an acquaintance, but that can be enough to rejuvenate you, your best self now without even trying. The power of a consistent smile.
“My friend!” I exclaimed.
“It’s duh best number 7 bus driver ever!” Eb-buh.
I laughed, appreciating his glow. “How’s life?”
“Life in 2018?”
“Yeah man, tell me!”
“Just another story,” he replied. “Sad story, happy story, it doesn’t matter. It’s just another story.”
The thick accent, the sunglasses and spiky hair; the tilting roadway, dilapidated in the crossfade of light and gently turning time. How can a line be artless and artful in the same breath, too brief to be profound and yet too concise, too all-encompassing to be anything else? The best sages turn a book into a single sentence.
I drift sometimes. We all do, especially these days. Despair is just around the corner, and it’s addictive. When you’ve “been through some stuff,” as they like to say out here, the reminder that life is a system of peaks and valleys carries with it particular comfort. His line put me back into perspective. To acknowledge the struggle as we comment on the intrinsically beautiful texture of existence allows us—allows me—all the more, to believe. Sometimes it’s glorious, life is, and sometimes it’s terrible.
We take it in stride.
Take things as they come, and make the best of them. “Yeah,” I nodded. “Just another story!”
“Jus’ another story!”
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.