Friday, November 21, 2008
“Don't wait. The time will never be just right.”
Victorian Christmas, they call it: a week-long festival to brighten the dullest of December days. Spouse and I gladly indulged in it for each year that we lived in our cherished small town in California. It would have become a tradition, eventually, but we moved away.
It was necessary for us to take a special shuttle bus from our house to the heart of the neighbouring city: parking was prohibited, as the local organisers closed off the streets to set up the various music stages and the tantalising snack stalls and to make way for the costumed carol singers.
Our bus driver, who I encountered often on my regular bus travels, spoke rapidly in clipped and broken English. Hardly anybody knew what he was saying but his incessant chattering was a pleasant way to commence such an occasion.
We determined that we would take the very last bus home, which would arrive on the corner at midnight.
Off we went to roam around. The city looked altogether altered at dusk, with not a vehicle to be seen, hundreds of people milling about trying their best to keep warm under a sky that threatened to cast snow.
We munched on some smoked almonds, and followed them with a sumptuous, melting steak sandwich from a street vendor. We stood nearby as local bands struck up and entertained at no cost to us. The quiet city had been transformed into a collection of streets that breathed and hummed with enchantment.
The two of us were ready to go home shortly before the last bus was due; the streets were still brimming with people but we had the possibility of returning on another night before the festival concluded.
Spouse and I were on our way up the hill to meet the bus when I, quite simply, got a cramp in my foot. I was certain that somebody had set my poor appendage alight and then tried to pull it off like one would a shoe. I could not move or balance properly, and breathing was suddenly a luxury. Spouse did not know what to do. If his car were nearby, he would rush and fetch it, and collect me on the way back. We were, however, passengers of public transport and our options were limited.
I hoped that we had some time to spare before the bus appeared, so that I might recover just enough to reach the bus stop. What a pity that the bus would not be rolling downhill toward us to make the situation a little easier.
The bus, alas, appeared on the brow of the hill just as I was urging it not to, and it came to a convenient halt for those patrons without cramp who had succeeded in reaching the corner on time.
Spouse thought of asking the bus driver to wait for me, but then we remembered that the fellow's English was pitifully limited to ordinary, routine phrases, none of which included "my wife, who is at the bottom of the hill down there, has a dreadful pain in her foot and this is the last bus of the evening- what can we do?"
I worried that he might misunderstand and roll away up the road with Spouse on board.
I am reluctant to ever miss a bus. As a streak of white hot pain stoked my foot without mercy, I looked up at Spouse and said, "I don't think we can wait. What if we just run for the bus?"
He thought I was delirious. So did I, for a spell.
But we ran anyhow, just on the off-chance that it turned out to be a good idea. If the driver were to take off before we got there, my plan was a rudimentary one: I would lay down in the middle of the road and go to sleep until somebody, anybody, brought a car.
It did not come to that: I found, oddly, that I could not walk, but I could run, and I could catch a bus when it was required. I vaguely recall floating up the hill, arm in arm with Spouse, drawing ever closer to the waiting headlights, swallowing the pain and pushing it into a deep drawer just long enough to get me seated on the bus.
I think the solution lay in the fact that strolling offered too much time to think about the distance and the pain and the scenario of becoming stranded, while sprinting ensured that the whole matter would soon be resolved.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 1:19 PM