I took the bus to work this morning.
I had allowed myself the indulgence of a hot fudge sundae from McDonald's. More hot fudge than sundae, really. Apparently these employees of the evil McD had enough of their souls left to make my confection the way I liked it. The gentle drizzle that had cooled me on my way to the bus stop had increased to a light, but steady pour.
I stood next to the edge of the dirty, ragged roof that stood over the drooping benches of the bus stop, contentedly munching on my sundae, when a police SUV pulled swiftly to the curb.
Two officers stepped out. The driver went to the back of the SUV, where a number of carry-on style suitcases where stored. The second stepped to and opened the back seat passenger door, where there sat a middle aged black woman.
She was dressed plainly, and her face showed the wear of cares and pains that would have crushed most others.
She stepped regally from the back of the SUV, as serene and proud as any Queen from history or fiction. She strode, not merely stepped, over the grimy sidewalk, around the broken remains of a pint of Aristocrat vodka, and into the dingy shelter of the bus stop. She sat down on the bench. Back straight. Shoulders squared. Eyes proud.
The officers remained respectfully silent, as did I. Suddenly holding something as crude as a hot fudge sundae from McDonald's made me feel like a small, unruly child. I went and tossed it meekly into a trashcan. The officers brought her bags, setting them deferentially next to her. Once they had brought her the last of them, they nodded respectfully and moved back towards their SUV. She responded with the barest perceptible declining of her head.
But not her eyes. Never her eyes.
The bus came a few minutes later. I had spent that time wondering what had brought this lady into this place. A dirty, wet bus stop next to a dirtier McDonalds in an even dirtier city. You don't get dropped off at a bus stop with nothing but your bags by the police for fun, after all.
Had she deigned to acknowledge the presence of the bus when it came, I would have carried her bags for her, but she didn't. Instead, she stood as I got on the bus, and for some reason that I will ever know, moved her bags from the shelter onto the wet sidewalk.
I looked back as the bus pulled away. She was standing proudly, surveying the street, her eyes filled with steely determination.
Defying the rain.