“Because I could not stop for death – He kindly stopped for me.” Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
He stood awkwardly at the bus stop wondering how he could outrun the crowd waiting to get a bus. He had been at it for a long time, and he suspected his legs were about to give way. There were no seats, so he had to lean on the railings. His back ached and his whole being trembled. The heat of the sun was crippling – double jeopardy – he was crippled already. He gripped the railings more tightly to avoid being swayed by the struggling crowd. He wished for a third leg. His stomach rumbled. He wished for strength and the vigour of youth. How much time did he have left?
He tried to make some meaning from the conversations going on around him. He didn’t speak much English, but he understood enough to get by. Apparently, he was going to have to wait there for a while. It was a Friday, and it was about time for Jumat service. This meant that schools closed early, and Muslim workers were leaving their workplace for the mosque. He decided to walk, what did he have to lose anyway? As soon as he left the bus stop, a danfo bus stopped in front of him. With surprising agility, he scrambled forward. He had barely put his foot in the bus, when it began to move. The other passengers started yelling at the driver. The conductor, hanging on the bus, lifted him up. He didn’t have time to settle down, for he was thrown forward when the bus suddenly swerved. His head hit the iron bar that separated the driver from the passenger. He was still recovering from this shock when the bus lurched forward without warning. This time, he wasn’t caught unawares, he held on tightly to the iron bar.
The conductor asked for his fare. His search in his pockets was futile. His pocket had been picked at the bus stop and he was penniless. The conductor was not very pleased, and made this very clear. He bowed his head in shame. The conductor grumbled till all the passengers disembarked. He alighted as fast as his bandy legs could allow. He had had enough unpleasantness for a day. He was going home. His soliloquy would be his companion, and his legs would be the chariot. They would not lead him astray. He watched the cars go by like his dreams which slipped through his now arthritic fingers. From the corner of his eyes, he saw darkness envelop the sun, as age had crept upon him. Where was home? He arrived at the foot of the pedestrian bridge and lay down on the bench he found there.
The odour of the heap of refuse no longer repelled him. The mosquitoes formerly tormentors had now become a sort of reminder that he was still alive. The music escaping from the club reminded him of those ecstatic days – the thrill of the weed, the never-ending strength, the overwhelming desire to succeed. Then, the cold began to spread, the kind that came from within. And then he knew.