A Stranger on a Bus

‘Why is the wind green?’, I hear the boy ask the man I presume to be his father.
The boy is referring to what he sees outside the window, where the wind of natures humour scurries past the swishing, ill fitting, doors of our bus. The wind changes tack as it hears our engine slow to a yellow idle and sees the glass doors begin to open. It laughs as it darts inside with a gusto and enthusiasm reserved for the few things on earth that are truly free. But then the doors of the bus close with a kiss of rubber seal, and the entering wind that the boy sees as green, is decapitated with a silent scream. I watch as the headless color loses its life and begins to dissipate into passenger pockets and handbags. It makes the older people shiver as it flows across their bodies and slithers into the crevices and hollows of exposed skin. The father, similar in age to myself but dressed in single digits, lifts up his collar and ignores the question, just like my own father always did.

I want to tell the child that I see the wind as blue, but I cannot.
He is a child and I am a man.
And I am a stranger on a bus.

They are new to the bus, this father with his miniature. Perhaps it’s recession, or maybe a different school, but it’s now day four and therefore most probably it’s not car trouble. The boy is, only now, comfortable enough to speak aloud, so I presume the bus journey to be new to him. They dress well, but father scores lowly. He’s wearing white and black, and whilst a purple scarf surrounds his neck like an optimistic bridle to a toiling day, it still only brings his number up to the high singles.
Perhaps I should explain. Being the absence of color, white is a number one to me, black being a two. The scarf, which I see as a six, saves the father from ‘beigedom’ and brings him to a temporary eight, but he’ll return to a three when he gets to his office and hangs his scarf and coat to reveal his black suit and white shirt with the grey tie hanging.
He’s a single digit lifer this father.
The boy on the other hand, is the contradiction that most children are to their parents, a genetic replicant, but yet he scores in the hundreds when it comes to his colors, just like most children do, and most adults don’t.

Except for Bingo that is, she once reached the cool one hundred, on the day she tattooed her ankle and wore two hats.

The bus slows again and at a glance I can tell that Bingo is probably her normal eighty eight this morning as the breaks squeal tangerine and stop. The green blue wind enters alongside her as the doors swish open at Grosvenor Street Station, the stop where the market stallers buy their flowers and the smell perfumes the bus for a fleeting moment. To me the smell is the sound of strumming guitar and flapping wings and as I watch Bingo’s calves step to the bus from beneath her red leather coat I savor my sensorial tonic and store it away for the day ahead. I hear her scent as a flautists scale when Bingo makes her way to her normal seat. Just as the doors close I tear my eyes away from her sashay and watch the boy. He sniffs the air and then rubs his finger tips vigorously into his ear. He looks to his father but says nothing.

I want to tell him that I hear smells too, but I cannot.

I can see father look across and I follow his eyes.
Bingo crosses her legs to reveal ankle butterfly and removes her book from zebra patterned satchel. She opens the individual buttons of her red coat, each one different to the other in a cacophony of tumbling numbers as the colors of ska chequerboard from button one mix with a punk chaos of paisley dots and then a rainbow disc of a sixties modette. The fourth button remains closed as usual, because she never opens the Scorpion, not on the bus; I wish I knew about elsewhere, other places she goes,but I don’t.
Beneath the downy interior of red leather coat she reveals the dress I glimpsed when she stepped up from the flower stalls, it’s her cherry leopard skin of an animal yet to be created. I add up the numbers just to be sure, she’s eighty nine this morning, her blood lipstick is lined with orange and I was out by one .
She opens the book she’s been reading all week, Sorcery for Sore Losers, and puts her foot into her zebra bag.
I look to the boy. His mouth is moving as he looks at her and I know he’s counting.

I want to tell him that it’s ok, colors are numbers too, but I cannot.

The next stop is theirs, the boy and the father, and I wonder will the boy have time to finish his arithmetic. He’s now using his fingers to sum Bingo up and I smile at the irony of his gloves, because I’m sure he doesn’t realize the truth they contain. Each knitted finger is a different color, beginning with a thumb of black and a forefinger of white. The longest finger is green and therefore a three, the ring finger a blue and an image of four, followed by the pinkie which is actually red and looks like a five. I feel his confusion as he tries to calculate, only for the figures and colors to jumble and merge like jelly beans floating in a rain bowed sky.

The bus turns the corner and father tugs at the boys elbow. The engine slows to its yellow idle and the doors swish open to the green blue laughter that barges its way in. I can see the disappointment on the boys face as he is pulled away from his counting and staring. He glances at me as he walks to the steps and I hear the sounds from the smell of the sea air that the blue wind carries with it, I know he hears something too.

They both step from the bus and pull scarves around their faces. The boy looks back at me and I want to talk to him. I want to tell him that I see the wind as blue. I want to explain that I hear the smells around us too and that colors are indeed more than just colors.
I want to shout that Bingo is eighty nine today but I once saw her as one hundred. I want him to know that he is not different, that there are many out there like him.

But I cannot.
He is a child and I am a man.
And I am a stranger on a bus.

I look over at Bingo as the bus jerks into motion.
Maybe tomorrow.

A Stranger on a Bus

Cathal .

Dublin, Ireland

  • Artist
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Artist's Description

Inspired by fellow bubbler Wildwomenlove who made a fantastic documentary about Synesthesia which according to Wikepedia "is a neurologically-based condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.

This is my take on it, where people hear smells and colours are numbers.
Great documentary.

Artwork Comments

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Cathal .

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