The people on the bus ride home suggest there’s more to Ainslie than the cozy suburban street where we live:
A ramshackle guy speaking into a big old cell phone.
“If I could just get to see a psychiatrist or something.”
Pleading with someone: his wife? a case worker?
Another rough looking bloke is drunk, almost asleep on one of the seats. Somehow, despite being barely conscious, he remembers his stop.
Tired people. Old people. Tidy people. Shabby people. Drunks. Kids.
Teenager’s mill around, foils for the rest of us. Young and healthy. Groomed and good looking. Awkward in their way, with the hunch and poise of those not quite yet grown into themselves.
Sitting next to me are two women. One, in her forties or early fifties, is tidily dressed. With a sensible swoop of hair and glasses that sit neatly on a crooked, determined nose. The other is older, her hair’s still dark but the curls are thinning. She’s rounded and bent down a bit, wearing a cheep pink fleece and wrinkled old pants.
The younger woman’s doing the bulk of the talking. She’s calm but her words have a force.
“…too many drug addicts and alcoholics, not good people. I’m not happy there.”
“Could you find another church?” The older lady’s voice is weaker. I have to strain to eavesdrop.
“That’s what I’m doing. It’s difficult for me – on my own. One guy used to keep calling me up asking me to drive him everywhere. And there’s a big woman, who bosses me around. One of those big women. I can’t put up with that.”
“Maybe another church would be better.”
“That’s right. I’m going to move. But I told the big woman, and now she wants to come with me. It’s difficult for me on my own. You must know what it’s like. When did you say your husband died?”
“30 years ago.”
“…I still miss him sometimes. It’s been a long time.”
“You see. It’s different for me. I’ve always been on my own. I think I always will.”
The older lady’s looking for words, but her companion starts up again before she finds any.
“I’m used to it. But I still get lonely. It was better when I worked you see, but now I’m just on my own. And the people at church are no good.”
“No, I think you should change churches.”
“Oh that’s my stop.”
“See you later. Good luck. I’m Mary by the way.”
Surprisingly, for someone who talks so much, I’m not a sociable person. With the exception of my wife and a few close friends, I find socialising hard work. Nevertheless, I think to myself as I limp the last little bit of my journey home, I’d crumple in an instant under the weight of that much loneliness.
Lady, I really hope you find a better church.