Single men don’t come knocking on your door, you know; they don’t just fall in your lap—except when they actually fall in your lap. My bumpy bus ride from Cambridge to Watertown generally involves a person or two a week not holding on and subsequently enduring a spectacular fall. The bus driver takes off like he’s (insert your favorite NASCAR driver here) leaving a wake of unsuspecting passengers littered on the floor of the bus. A sign on the door warns not to stand too close, but there’s no sign telling people to Hold On Because the Driver Wants To Kill You. I think drivers compete to see how many pins they can knock over per shift. And I’ll admit, it’s mildly entertaining to watch—when it’s not you or a fragile old granny. If you close your eyes, it’s easy to imagine that instead of leaving Harvard Square, you’re on a rickety bus lumbering down a bumpy dirt road in a hill town in Guatemala. Are there chickens on the roof? Possibly.
On this night, a 30-something man heads for the back of the bus where I’m sitting; it’s a long, dangerous walk to make without bracing yourself and I can see before the man does that as soon as the driver accelerates, this guy is headed for a fall. What I don’t expect is that he’ll fall right in my lap, which he does. In an endearing Portuguese accent, he steadies himself, takes my arm, and sits down next to me while apologizing over and over with sincerity. Touching strangers on the bus is never de rigueur, but then we’ve already had full body contact, so I don’t mind that he keeps emphasizing his apology by patting my arm. I’m laughing as if to say oh, please, this happens all the time, and I actually don’t mind because he’s laughing too and is really friendly. After a dull date the night before, the fall is a welcome accident.
We chat and I discover he’s from Brazil. “I just got my American citizenship,” he tells me, beaming. “Congratulations,” I say. I remember reading an article about the citizenship ceremony, so it must have been very recent. I picture him memorizing presidents’ names and raising his right hand and swearing the oath. “I’m going back to visit soon, but I feel like this is my home now,” he says. “I’ve been here since I was 19.” He stretches his arm out over the back of my seat like you might when you’re driving.
I flash to us traveling to his former homeland, meeting his relatives, going to Rio…
I miss my bus stop.
“Well, it was nice of you to…fall into me,” I say, rushing off for the next stop, wondering if this will feel like a missed connection even as it’s happening. We smile and laugh, but I don’t pursue it because the ride was quick and we haven’t talked enough to warrant a “Here’s my card” moment. And really, the only commonality we’ve established is that we’re both citizens, which I suppose could be the basis of a strong relationship…but I just get off and feel satisfied that if nothing else, I cushioned the fall of a newly christened citizen. Just my way of saying, Hey, welcome to America. And by the way, hold on; it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.