I live in Los Angeles.
I take the bus.
I ride a child's Razor Scooter several miles to connect my home, bus commute, and work.
Two blocks from the bus stop early on a Saturday morning, I decide to jump off rather than risk scraping the bottom of the scooter on, and perhaps falling over, an uplifted section ahead in the sidewalk. Good move, I congratulate myself. The next thing I think is, "Odd…my feet are not on the ground."
I fall. Hard. On my head. Laying on the ground, watching the blood drip on the sidewalk, politely asking my head not to bleed on my suede jacket, I marvel at the wild spinning sensation I’m experiencing.
I stumble onto the city bus heading toward downtown L. A. and sit in the first handicapped spot, avoiding glances while trying to catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror. The white paper napkins in my hand, donated by a non English speaking passerby, are wadded and red as I dab at my bleeding, rapidly swelling eyebrow and lip. ("Es muy malo?" I asked the passerby. "No...," he said with a sympathetic uncertain look, offering me the bit of "papel.") On the bus, I'm thinking I look like a runaway battered wife, who has grabbed a few things in a backpack and escaped on the kid's scooter so the abusive husband wouldn't hear the car starting up and driving away.
How much blood is smeared on my face? I must look a mess! (Ya think?!) I lick a clean spot on my napkin and wipe my cheek, looking back at the napkin to try and get an idea of my appearance. Oh God. Licking my wounds! Now I just look freaky, forget the abused wife syndrome. I'm reminded of the very marginal guy who sat in front of me on the bus last week. He could NOT stop picking at a scab on the back of his head. It made me a little queasy, but just as he could not stop picking, I could NOT stop watching. I imagine everyone on this bus cannot stop watching this borderline crazy.
I'm sitting beneath the sign that asks me to relinquish my seat to the elderly and handicapped. Nobody should need to be told this with a sign - it's just good manners and our moral duty. I am embarrassed to have chosen this seat, but shakiness and an acute need to avoid eye contact keeps me here.
Thirsty, suddenly so thirsty. I open my backpack to pull out my water bottle. But I’m having trouble finding it and need to scrounge around, pulling out a few items to get a better look inside. I'm on my way to teach my observational drawing class which means I carry props with me for my students to draw. My backpack is my prop bag.
I pull out a stuffed animal - an old, gaudy orange and blue striped fish. Then out comes an onion, a lemon, and a little orange toy shovel. Who carries this stuff in a backpack? That would be the seriously marginal, probably crazy, wound-licking, trash hoarding lady on the bus to downtown L.A. The realization makes me laugh out loud. The bus turns onto Main Street and I've turned the corner to Schizophrenic. I am no longer embarrassed by my seat. Schizophrenics belong up front, always ready for a hasty exit.
This, quite obviously, is the makings of a good story. Laughing quietly to myself, still dabbing my wounds and feeling the lump rising across my forehead, with my stuffed animal in my lap, I start to turn towards my elderly Chinese neighbor to ask for paper and pencil.