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Field notes and photos

December Day field notes

Thursday, December 14, 2006, 2:25pm
UK to Fayette Mall

Bus map of food-talking ridersJackpot. I get on the bus that is always nearly full at this time of the day. I find one of the last seats open near the front of the bus. I plop down right in situ a conversation and a good one, too. An androgynous black woman in her 40s is sitting on the right facing sideways. (See the maps of the bus with everyday scratch notes for more detail on bus passengers and seating. The front seats are replicated here.) She is wearing sweat pants, an old blood donor t-shirt, denim jacket and tennis shoes. Her front teeth are missing and her hair is cropped in a crew cut. Across the aisle is a beautiful pale girl in her 20s. She has on a tank top, sweater and a peasant skirt. She looks like a cross between a hippie and a fairy. I almost expect her to have wings tucked under her beige cardigan to accompany her long slender limbs. Next to her, separated by an empty bus seat, is a white male, average build and yuppie-like khakis, polo shirt and nylon windbreaker – a little more upscale than what we are used to here on the bus. They are all three in conversation, sharing recipes, as I get on with the other students leaving campus.

The black woman is in the midst of describing how to make a dish with hamburger, spinach and cheese. Her hand stir the mixture in an imaginary saucepan as she gently rocks back and forth, punctuating her narrative with an occasional “mmm Hummm”. The man says, “But you can’t make that right now.” “I know,” she says, “e coli. But I love spinach. I’m going to make it with frozen.” “I’m going to make chili,” he states. He then talks about his recipe for chili. The young lady tells both, “We have the best chili and French onion soup at the Melodeon.” They sit like a little triangle, each one a corner necessary to complete the whole. They continue on with recipes and talk of food until the man gets off at the next stop, across from Central Baptist Hospital. The other two bid him good-bye. The woman and the girl continue talking but with less vigor now. In less than a minute, there is a long pause. Then, unwilling it seems to let the conversation die; she leans forward with her hand extended. “I’m Misty,” she says. She is doing something that we do not normally do: offer our names. It’s not unheard of, but it’s rather rare. “I’m June,” the woman takes her hand, shaking it. “Well, June, you come on down to the restaurant and I’ll get you some French onion soup.” “Oh, my,” says June laughing, again rocking back and forth. Misty tells her to come after 2pm on Tuesday or Wednesday and ask for her by name. Then it is June’s stop by the McDonald’s on Nicholasville.

I get off at the Mall a few minutes later. Misty sits quietly with her hands in her lap, she is staring out the window on the other side, what would have been just past June’s head. I walk past her to get off the bus. She does not notice. Although I have felt a part of the proceedings, I realize it was much like a play for me. I watched the actors in the scene, a scene that I was not a part of except as an audience member. I exit the bus, fleeing to my car and the mile home to my computer to get it all down. I wonder if June will go next week to see Misty? I will never know, I suppose.

[aside: Looking back on these notes at the end of March 2007, I realize that I’ve not seen any of the three since that day. They came together and scattered apart so perfectly that sometimes I am reminded of centripetal and centrifugal motion. So fast and tight and then spinning off just as quickly and violently.]


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