The air was quite warm and the sun was intensive. My daughter would be getting out of school in a few minutes. A newly constructed bus stop stood just a few yards from where I usually wait for her, a way out from under the sun.
A woman was sitting there on a bench whose design was more suited to an airport terminal. I read a lone flyer and the bus schedule while I waited. The school would let out about the same time the bus would arrive. I stayed at the edge of the entrance and allowed myself the shade of the overhang.
The woman sitting there might have been 50. I glanced around, blinking at the sun where it peeked through the canopy. She wore more clothing than the weather called for, but she looked like she needed the comfort of a few extra layers.
Our eyes met, and I smiled. She looked at me the way someone would in a dream, someone I thought I knew, but wasn’t sure. I looked away, more out of embarrassment than discomfort. I don’t know why I felt embarrassed.
The school bell rang. I looked back at her. She was looking away, distantly, as her lips moved. “I wish I mattered.”
I spoke without inflection and more softly than I had intended. “You matter.”
A startling coolness came up around me in the way it does when I open the refrigerator door on a hot day. She looked past me and winced as she rose up from the bench. I turned.
The air-conditioned bus had arrived and the door was open, the cool air flowing down out of it and into the entrance of the bus stop. I tried to recall hearing the bus roll up and the door open, but I couldn’t.
I turned with her as she passed me. “I will see you tomorrow,” my voice tentative, almost asking.
The sun rolled over me as the shadow of the bus rolled away.
As if she’d already called to me once, and probably because she already had, my daughter came beside me and insisted, “Mom!”
Suddenly I could hear the bus roaring down the street.