I am on the 38 Geary, coming back from an appointment with the cardiologist.
There is a large box on my lap.
I am sitting in the disabled seating, because it was the only seating available when I got on the bus. Normally I try to sit further back, to make room for those who are more disabled than I am. I have no choice but to be here, in the front.
The bus is getting crowded. Teenagers horse around in the back. An older Chinese lady with bags of vegetables is sitting next to me. Across from me, a veteran, returning from an appointment at the VA. We talk. About the VA, about caring for veterans. I do not offer up who I am, where I am coming from, what I am doing here in the disabled seating with this box on my lap.
More and more people get onto the bus.
I wonder why the driver doesn’t skip stops and let a bus behind us pick some of these people up. People are crowded into the aisles, hanging on to the straps and the bars.
The bus sighs to a stop, load of humanity seething inside.
A person with a cane walks on.
I want to get up. I want to get up. I want to get up.
I want to stand so that this person can sit.
I am dizzy. I tripped coming up the stairs to the bus, almost dropped my box, in fact. I know that if I get up, I will fall down. My hands are too weak to grab one of the poles, I am too short to reach the straps that hang from the ceiling, what will I do with my box?
I cannot get up.
I cannot get up and I am consumed with guilt. It is filling my box, it is overflowing, I feel like everyone is staring at me and I am flushing and my heart is fluttering.
And the moment, it happens.
“Why don’t you get up, little lady,” someone says.
I stare at the floor. I stare at the box.
“I…can’t,” I say. “I’m sorry.”
I look like the picture of entitlement, here in the disabled seating. I am pale and sweating and trembling and my lips and fingers are bluish but that could be drugs, after all. Here I am, with my box, preventing this person with a cane from sitting. This person who is standing right in front of me, holding the bar by my seat, because it is the only place left on the bus.
I hate myself.
I am convinced that everyone on the bus hates me.
I look around, hating myself for policing other people but wondering if one of the other young people who appears to be able will do the right thing and get up so that the person with a cane can sit down.
I hate myself.
I try to convince myself that I should not have to explain myself, that the disabled seating is there for people with disabilities to use, that I have a right to sit here. But so does the person with a cane. Neither of us is more deserving than the other, I just happened to get here first.
I hate myself.
One of the older women in the seats across from me gets up and says “here, take my seat” to the person with the cane, and she shoots me a dirty look. I still feel like everyone on the bus is staring at me. Hating me.
And then one of the things in my box falls out. It is the bill from my appointment. It is the thing which details what has just been done to me, and exactly how much I just paid for it. The bill which specifically says that I am supposed to have someone come to pick me up afterwards, which is something I lied about, leaving the office, “oh yes, of course I have a friend to pick me up.” Because there is no one.
The person with a cane leans over to pick it up, to pass it to me, eyes widen.
“Here, I think you dropped this.”
“Oh, thank you,” I say, trying to reach around the box to reach the outstretched piece of paper which now other people are staring at too, including the woman who stood up, who is standing right next to my seat.
Because it’s the only place left on the bus.
She sees it and her hand reaches out automatically and she leans to pass it to me and then “oh,” she says.