I’m sitting on the sun bleached yellow concrete bench at the bus stop at the corner of Market and 22nd, San Diego, about to board the number 3, when two small children run up the to the bus, and leap, as if over a wide puddle, onto the bus.
While I wait to board, I wonder whether the children might be those of the driver, because they’re all holding arms out to each other, the driver leaning down and, one after the other, giving the children hugs.
The greetings over, and the children walking down the aisle, I step onto the bus and stand by the machine that will take my $2.25 fare.
‘Do I get a hug too?’ I say to the driver while the ticket machine wolfs my two one dollar bills.
The driver, who is wearing a pale blue bus drivers shirt, black trousers, black sunglasses and shoulder length dreadlocks, laughs.
‘Stop that now, girl,’ she says.
And I laugh, too.
And then she asks me where I got my accent.
‘Where you get that accent of yours?’ she asks me.
I tell her I got the majority of it in Australia, but some of it I got in England.
‘Damn, she says and cocks her head to the right and says, ‘What are you doing here, girl?’
‘I dunno, really,’ I say truthfully, smiling at her while she smiles back at me ‘I just really like your land and your people,’
Then, for saying what I have just said, she tells me I can have a hug, too.
‘Come here, girl,’ she says, ‘you can have a hug too,’
And she reaches her arms up toward me and I laugh and lean down and we hug.
And my arms are around her and she is large and feels comfortingly spongy.
And the back of her pale blue shirt is soft on my arms.
And the hug momentarily subdues my anxiety.
But then as we release, the anxiety flares when I remember I haven’t showered today.
And I can only hope, that as my arms had gone out toward her, the hugging driver hadn’t caught the odour of unattended sweat flavouring my right armpit.

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