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Riding The Bus In Buffalo

May 15, 2020

It was 1971 on a 7:38am Niagara Frontier Transit bus going north on Main Street from Downtown Buffalo, New York. The destination was the suburbs 45 minutes away, to my private day school.

I could have taken the private bus company’s ride that the school offered, but it was a 7am pickup, Buffalo offered free bus passes to all students, so, why not save 45 minutes of sleep?

I was one of the few caucasians on board, 15: and was still healing from being wrecked as fodder before the Park School of Buffalo Fighting Pioneers Football Team last fall. I sat, alone, looking out the window in the dark winter morning.

I spent my days going to school, studying, pretending to wrestle, talking to a few nerd friends, but no one saw our home, my brother who lived with me, my mother who visited, let alone my father, who I saw two weeks a year. Essentially I was alone.

In mid-20th century, alcoholism was a silent part of many families, because no one wanted anyone to know that infection was in your intimate’s lives. It was a dark disease of human impossibilities. Drunks make those who they do not know uncomfortable, even threatened. Those who do know them facilitate calmness wherever possible, so having friends, that may want to visit, was simply impossible. So I never had a friend of any kind in these 15 years. It was just too dangerous.

The bus doors crashed opened a few stops down Main Street, and three kids got on who I recognized. One was in my class. An equally loud, perfectly hippily put-out fellow sophomore. She walked down the bus aisle, with coke-bottle glasses, a Tyrolean hat (the one with the feather) and fully frizzed-out hair. We had never talked, despite my being in the private school she had be in since kindergarten.

SLAM, she and her leather backpack bashed down loudly sitting next to me.


I looked at her. She cared. I was, well, flustered.

No one had ever done that before, I made it clear to everyone that there was a line in conversation, and it was my family, so no one wanted to go there much.

I looked in her eyes, through the coke bottles, and, well, I knew that someone cared.

We were best friends in high school despite any unfulfilled romantic anything (her choice) and we remain great friends, continually in touch over hundreds of miles, even in COVID 19: over 50 years, with children, marriages and life.

I think that is true, because her being with me that morning simply said, “Lean On Me”.

That song crushed me when I heard it after that encounter, because she, literally, said those words to me. “I’ll be your friend…when you are not strong…” Some gifts have no understanding. They are the ones that God has given you..

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Brian Miller permalink
    May 15, 2020 8:02 am

    This needs to be a longer story!

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