As darkness crept over Toronto’s skyline, the 6 southbound bus was humming at the corner of Bay and Bloor. Just when the driver began inching into the street, a woman in a wheelchair flagged him. He opened the doors and activated the handicap access. The elderly woman struggled to maneuver her wheels over the ramp.
“Easy Lily. I won’t leave until you are on,” the bus driver said. Encouraged by his soothing words, Lily lightened her grip on the speed knob and glided into the bus.
“I’m sorry for holding you up,” she said, wiping her forehead with her sleeve.
“No worries Lily, that’s what I am here.” His voice resonated a kindness that hinted at a friendship.
“How long have we known each other now Phil?” Lily asked as the driver steered the vehicle into the street.
“Fifteen years easy. I remember the first time we met you gave me shit for smoking. Put that thing out, you yelled.”
Lily chuckled at his imitation of her shrill. She is a graying woman with deep wrinkles and hefty rolls that start from her chin and end at her ankles.
“Well, did you?”
“No, I’ve tried so many times…” his voice, ripe with remorse, tapered off. “Did you ever smoke Lily?”
“Yep, for 31 years, and now I am dying from it.”
“I’ll tell you when we get to my stop.”
Phil angled his neck in Lily’s direction as if urging her to open up. She changed the topic. “I fired my homemaker.”
“No you didn’t.”
“Yep. After 14 years… She says to me you are crazy, you are coocoo, you need some pills, so I fired her.”
“I am very sorry Lily,” Phil said.
She propped her head against the window. Her blonde hair slick with dandruff rubbed against the handicap sticker. “I have been so sick, I have not been able to do much of anything.”
“Do you get your flu shot every year Lily?” Phil asked as he careened between construction pylons.
“Yep, the doctors pressure me to.”
“And it doesn’t help?”
“Nope. Not for what I have. But I’m not telling until I get off.”
He monitored her through the rear view mirror but she dodged his querying gaze opting instead to bark at passengers.
“Put the brakes on that stroller,” she shouted at a young mother. The lady ignored Lily and planted her diaper bag on a ledge near the priority-seating area.
“You’re not allowed to that,” Lily said.
The lady folded her arms under her breast and fumed at the woman in the wheelchair. “Who are you?” she demanded, “The bus police?”
Before Lily could reply, Phil jumped in. “Ma’am she’s right. You can’t put anything on that.” The lady kissed her teeth and flung the diaper bag across her shoulder. Lily’s eyes glinted with victory.
Phil, hoping to be rewarded for his loyalty, turned to his friend. “You still haven’t told me what is wrong with you.”
“That’s because we are not at my stop.”