The Woman At the Bus Stop

There was a woman at a bus stop, nondescript and notable only for her age. Her skin drooped with the creases of maturity, skin weathered and paled from the onset of winter, and eyes a glazed blue. It was difficult to tell whether she understood where she was, or if she saw the number of buses which came and left, one after the other, in ten minute intervals at a time. Her gaze seemed to see through the activity of the streets, seeing something that once was there, and living in that moment for as long as she was able. Her fingers gripped a velvet handbag, balanced carefully in her lap, the top cinched with a gold clasp and printed with a Victorian floral that, much like its owner, would have been elegant in its time. But now, much like its owner, had aged beyond appreciation, and remained a remnant of a time long forgotten. 

She was alone, just as she had always been alone. One did not have to speak to her to know this, as loneliness seeped from her very essence--from the threadbare wool over her shoulders to the fibres of her grey hair. This loneliness seemed a repellent to passerby who, upon approach,  made to take the empty seat next to her, but once close enough, retreated hesitantly and stood at the corner. Like the procession of buses, she did not acknowledge these people. Lips tight and eyes watered from the wind, she allowed these individuals to enter and leave her life as all others had, her posture unchanging and her grip never loosening from the bag. 

Every so often, she would let out a small exhale, the materialised air before her lingering for a moment, and then carried away. In and out, in and out, over and over, the only thing indicating that she was distinguishable from a disdaining statue, much like the lot that sprouted from the snow covered grasses of the cemetery gated behind her. 


When Emerson first came to Sussex and 5th, he paid little mind to the woman at the stop. In fact, he had not even noticed her until his break, when a coworker pointed through the front window of the coffee shop to where she sat. 

"How often does she come?" he asked, as the coworker leaned towards him, pausing his counter cleaning to whisper as one does when imparting on someone the most invaluable and sacred of secrets. 

"We've never seen her leave," he replied, and Emerson glanced up, once again, to stare at her. 


"Never." The coworker poured himself a cup of coffee and sat on the counter, shoulder square with the espresso machine. "But she's here when I open and there when I finish." 

"And no one's bothered to talk to her?" 

This made the coworker laugh, and he sat down the mug and leaned forwards, whispering once more. "We've tried. But she's never said anything. Hell, never even looked up." 


The coworker shrugged. "Ask anyone here. Never had any luck."


"There are rumours, though," the coworker continued. "Seems you may be interested in that."

"Are any of them based on truth?"

The coworker waved his hand, admonishing this. "The boss thinks she's waiting for a lost lover, who left her at this very stop."

"The boss is in on this?"

"Clara over there thinks she killed someone, and that is where she buried the body."

"At a bus stop?"

"Well, in the grass behind. She comes everyday to make sure no one's discovered her secret."

"That's absurd."

The coworker paused, considering this.  "Well, maybe so. But who's to say it's not true?"

"I suppose."

Emerson's watch beeped. It was the end of break.

"Well, if you ever go over and talk to her, let us know, won't you?"

"Yeah, of course."

"That's a good man." The coworker tossed the rag over his shoulder, took a final sip of coffee, and made his way to the cashier where a line was beginning to form.

Emerson glanced back to the woman and to his complete and total surprise found her staring back.  They locked eyes from across the way, her blue matching his green, an indescribable depth beneath the glaze, the sheen of which was impossible for him to detect from his lofty position behind the window.

But when he blinked, she returned  to her stoic disposition, leaving him wondering if it had ever even happened.


Emerson laid in bed that night, staring at the ceiling and counting the patterns in the mould stain. He could hear Natalia getting ready in the washroom, her usual night routine turning the water faucet on and off repeatedly until everything from her face to her teeth to her underarms were scrubbed clean. 

When she joined him in their bed, he turned off the light and resumed his staring. 

"What are you thinking about?" she asked, as she trailed her fingers over his chest. He absently nudged her hand away and sighed. 

"There's this woman." 

"What?" She turned on the light and sat up. "A woman?" 

"Not like that," he said, waiting for her posture to relax. When it didn't, he continued. "She sits on this bus bench every day.  Always there. And no one knows why." 

"Maybe she needs the bus." 

"No, it's not like that." He sat up as well. "She never gets on one." 



"Huh." Natalia crossed her arms and tilted her head in thought. "Maybe she likes the view." 

"But that's the thing," Emerson replied. "She doesn't seem to see anything. She just has this vacant look, like she isn't registering anything around her." 

"She could be a bit--" Natalia twisted her finger by her temple and Emerson shook his head. 

"I mean, it's possible. But, I just don't think its that." 

"Well, anyone who just sits on a bus bench all day, for no reason whatsoever, is probably a little crazy." 

"Neurotic," Emerson conceded, and Natalia nodded in agreement. 

"Why pay her any mind? She's not worth it." 

"I just can't shake her, I don't know what it is. I think she stared at me for a moment today, after I learned about her. I swear she knew what we were talking about." 

Natalia laid back down, pulling the duvet to her chin. "That's impossible, baby. How could she have heard?" 

"I know it's impossible. But even still...." He leaned his head against the headboard and looked to the mould stain. 

Natalia reached for him again, taking a bit of fabric and gently tugging it downwards. 

"You should go to sleep. Everything will make more sense in the morning." 

"Yeah, probably." He rubbed his eyes, but he was anything but tired.

He sunk down and pulled the duvet over him. Once they were both settled, he turned off the light and stared at the shadow of the mould stain until the late hours of the night lulled him off to sleep. 


At quarter-to-seven, Emerson was on the 56 Southbound bus heading to the coffee shop. Though the 48 was faster, the 56 would deliver him directly to the woman, and he woke up that morning determined to speak to her. 

Though he knew it was ridiculous, he looked particularly well-dressed for the occasion, sporting the cashmere scarf Natalia gifted for Christmas and which he wore only when she made him. His hands were clad in leather gloves, his shirt was ironed, and he wore the oxford shoes without the scuff at the toes. When he entered the kitchen, Natalia sat down the newspaper and stared at him with a look he had not seen in a while, and that put him in a very good mood indeed. 

Now, seated amongst the other commuters, he stared at the window hoping to get a premature glance  in the hopes seeing the woman from a distance would give him the courage he needed to introduce himself. It bothered him how transfixed he was on her. She was nothing but an elderly woman with outdated clothes and a compulsive love for bus seats. When he lived in New York, there were hundreds of her at every transit stop. Yet, there was something unshakeable about this one, and it gnawed at his insides as a mystery to solve if he were to ever move on with his life. 

The 56 slowed at Sussex and 5th, and Emerson followed the trail of people exiting the bus. When his feet landed on pavement, he turned to the bench and to his surprise found it vacant. He looked in either direction, persisting well after the bus had merged back into traffic and disappeared. A stone weighed heavy in his stomach, a feeling he attributed to immense disappointment but also a wave of uneasiness. There was something not right, and though it was only his second day of work, this feeling was strong and unshakeable. 

He crossed the street and entered the coffee shop. Though the room was not silent, he was greeted with a stillness, the type that clung onto a place in the wake of a natural disaster, and he donned his apron and greeted his coworker with a nod of his head. Seated along the window was a group of businessmen, eating bagels and drinking coffee, their conversations low and bordering on unpleasant. The espresso machine was hissing violently and spewing a stream of smoke to the ceiling as it dispelled coffee, and the morning manager seemed displeased with the inventory records made the night before, as she shook her head and liberally crossed out rows of numbers. 

His coworker approached, rag slung casually over his shoulder, and leaned in close. Just as he was about to speak, Emerson started. 

"I thought you said that woman was there everyday." 

His coworker held a finger to his lips. "Look back there." 

He motioned with his head towards the back corner of the store, and Emerson followed the motion to see a hunched figure with a velvet handbag sitting stoically and staring at the empty table before her. 

"She came in, didn't order anything, and went straight back there." 

"And she's never done this before?" Emerson whispered, unable to take his eyes off the woman. 


"Did you try to speak to her?"

"Well, the manager did but--"

"But what?" 

"Nothing. No response." 

"Huh." Emerson crossed his arms and leaned against the counter, deep in thought. "She can't just sit there without ordering something. It's against policy." 

"Fuck policy. What do you think she wants?" 

"I have no idea. Someone should talk to her again." 

"Why don't you?" 

Now that the moment presented itself, Emerson lost all gall from the morning commute. He took a deep breath and nodded, mainly to generate more enthusiasm so that he could feel something, anything, that could replace the numbness taking over his body. 

With his coworker shadowing, he made his way to the back corner. When he approached, he hovered behind for a moment, taking her in. She was smaller up close, seemingly more fragile, her hair mere wisps and her shawl more patched. He cleared his throat and moved to face her. She continued to look to the table. 

"Ma'am, you'll have to buy something if you want to stay here." He hated the words the moment he said it, and he felt them settle in the space between them, creating more distance than what had already existed. "It's just that everyone who uses the facilities must be a paying customer, and I'd be happy to take your order and bring it to you here if you know what you want. If not, my coworker here can get you a menu." 

He motioned for a menu to be fetched, and once his coworker was out of sight, the woman's head slowly began to raise. Emerson felt his heart beat quicken as his eyes met hers in an unblinking gaze. She was so much older than what he had thought, looking to be in her nineties and wearing her age quite openly. Yet, the moment their eyes met, he felt his skin flush and his eyes water, for he was so overcome with fear that he feared he would faint on the spot. She slowly raised, her body creaking with the expenditure, and once she stood she reached across the table, one hand still gripping the velvet bag tightly, and touched his cheek. He stood frozen in her icy grasp, her eyes mere inches from his body. 

Her mouth parted, and in one breath she whispered, "Emerson." 

His mind was screaming out to her, demanding how she could have possibly learned his name. Yet, his body remained arrested in her grasp, unmoving and unresponsive. All he could do was tear at the eyes. 

"I've waited so long for you," she said, voice raspy, as if she had not spoken in a very long time. "I've waited so long." 

The words rang in his ears, and he blinked away the tears to stare more clearly at her. They stood, eye to eye, hers unwavering and his searching, and after a moment, he gasped then bent over, retching violently for air. 

"Natalia," he said, grasping his throat. He heard the patter of his coworkers come running towards them, but all he could focus on was the woman.

"I've waited so long for you," she said, a single tear filling her glazed eyes. 

That tear was all he could remember before he fainted. 

Property of Morgan Davies and The MAD  Exposé