14th December

Nothing was Said

It wouldn’t have been acceptable for me, a man, to do what was done. It would have been misinterpreted, my motivation questioned. The woman herself would probably have seen me as suspect, even predatory, and so perhaps she should have. Thus I was only a witness, not a protagonist.

I was on the bus. So often on the bus everybody is guarding his or her personal joys or tragedies. Not this time. The woman was sitting several seats in front of me on the top deck. She had a scarf over her head. I couldn’t tell if she was young or old, I didn’t know what, if anything, the scarf signified. All I could see was that her head was covered, she was alone and she was crying. It wasn’t to draw attention to herself. She couldn’t help it. There she was, on the top deck of a bus, crying her eyes out.

Five of us were up there with her: myself, a young lad, two women sitting together with various bags of shopping, and another woman by herself. We must all have been aware of the weeping woman’s distress. How could we not have been? I wanted to go to her, ask her what was wrong, but I didn’t go. Her sobbing continued. I looked to the boy: if I couldn’t help her, how could he? I looked to the other woman by herself, willing her to act. She stared out of the window, perhaps nursing a hurt in her own heart. The two shoppers were talking, glancing. I knew they were talking about the one in distress even though they were whispering.

Then, as if they had reached a joint decision, one of them stood and went to her. She sat down and put her arm round her. That was all. A total stranger. She put her arm round her. And it wasn’t going to stop the tears but it was certainly something.

My stop was coming up. All our stops were coming up. For a minute, though, it was as if time and travel had stopped. As if there was something shared among us, a possibility, a hope. Yet nothing was said.

Reader: Tam Dean Burn
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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