“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34
This is a story about a woman with Down’s Syndrome, a blind midget, a poor Black man, and a bus driver named Rachel. This is not a set-up for a bad, crass, off-color joke, nor is it the beginning of a comedic essay meant to juxtapose these people in a semi-racist, classist, sizist, ability-ist way. These four people are the beginning of my exploration of the kingdom of God on a MITS bus.
When I got on the bus in front of RB, I was the only student on, so I sat on the lower level like I usually do. This wouldn’t be strange or even something to mention if there wasn’t some sort of unspoken rule about students and the way they always sit at the back of the bus on the upper-level. I am not sure whether I attribute this the fact that the students are scared of Muncie residents, or they think are better than the others on the bus, or they are merely being polite by going to the seats further back and higher up. Whatever it is the students sit at the back of the bus, up two steps and by the engine compartment, while the residents of Muncie sit on the lower level.
Being a Muncie resident and an adult, I find myself positioned precariously between BSU student and the woman I am when I am not on campus. I live my own double consciousness fading between BSU and the town I now call home. As I am shuttled home, I always look around the bus because I find bus-life in every city fascinating. I saw several town people occupying the seats around me as the bus began to fill up with students.
Two passengers who are on the bus with me got on the stop after I did and I have seen them in the library. I can’t quite figure the whole situation out because they seem to be a mother or grandmother, but we’ll call her grandmother for simplicity’s sake, and a child. I think the child must have some sort of social disorder. She sits right next to her grandmother and wears earphones that aren’t attached to a player under a crooked, homemade stocking cap that is bright teal and inside out. The earphones are masking taped together along the cord and they are the big old kind that go around your entire ear to block out all outside noise. The earphone cause the girl to yell sometimes to her grandmother: “I can’t go to the bathroom by myself. I am scared. You have to go pee with me!” The grandmother never bats an eye, as all the students in the basement of the library stare at them.
Today they are on their way to the bank, and the girl is one step up from me toward the back of the bus, but I am sitting sideways so I watch her intrigued as she panics a bit when she realizes her companion is still in the front portion of the bus. Her grandmother instead of following her, sat next to the Black man who was on the bus when I got on, probably coming from WalMart. The black man at this point is sitting across from the woman with Down’s syndrome and the three of them are talking. I’m watching the panic faced child fiddle with her headphone cord, and I realize it is duct-taped because she chews on it ferociously when she is anxious. As the bus slows down for the next stop, the girl bolts from her seat and runs to the front of the bus. Since there is no room for her next to her grandmother, she sits next to the woman with Down’s syndrome, who promptly puts out her hand and says, “Hi, I’m Brenda.” At this, the girl freaks out and squeals a bit, and Grandmother states: “She is very shy and won’t tell people her name.” Brenda, looking confused, pats the girl on the shoulder and