Flowers On The Bus

flowers on the busWe were a very motley crowd of people who took the bus every day
that summer 33 years ago. During the early morning ride from the
suburb, we sat drowsily with our collars up to our ears, a cheerless
and taciturn bunch.
One of the passengers was a small grey man who took the bus to the
center for senior citizens every morning. He walked with a stoop and
a sad look on his face when he, with some difficulty, boarded the bus
and sat down alone behind the driver. No one ever paid very much
attention to him.
Then one July morning he said good morning to the driver and smiled
short-sightedly down through the bus before he sat down. The driver
nodded guardedly. The rest of us were silent.
The next day, the old man boarded the bus energetically, smiled and
said in a loud voice: “And a very good morning to you all!” Some of us
looked up, amazed, and murmured “Good morning,” in reply.
The following weeks we were more alert. Our friend was now dressed
in a nice old suit and a wide out-of-date tie. The thin hair had been
carefully combed. He said good morning to us every day and we
gradually began to nod and talk to each other.
One morning he had a bunch of wild flowers in his hand. They were
already dangling a little because of the heat. The driver turned around
smilingly and asked: “Have you got yourself a girlfriend, Charlie?” We
never got to know if his name really was “Charlie”, but he nodded
shyly and said yes.
The other passengers whistled and clapped at him. Charlie bowed
and waved the flowers before he sat down on his seat.
Every morning after that Charlie always brought a flower. Some of the
regular passengers began bringing him flowers for his bouquet, gently
nudged him and said shyly: “Here.” Everyone smiled. The men
started to jest about it, talk to each other, and share the newspaper.
The summer went by, and autumn was closing in, when one morning
Charlie wasn’t waiting at his usual stop. When he wasn’t there the
next day and the day after that, we started wondering if he was sick
or — hopefully — on holiday somewhere.
When we came nearer to the center for senior citizens, one of the
passengers asked the driver to wait. We all held our breaths when
she went to the door.
Yes, the staff said, they knew whom we were talking about. The
elderly gentleman was fine, but he hadn’t been coming to the center
that week. One of his very close friends had died at the weekend.
They expected him back on Monday. How silent we were the rest of
the way to work.
The next Monday Charlie was waiting at the stop, stooping a bit more,
a little bit more gray, and without a tie. He seemed to have shrunk
again. Inside the bus was a silence akin to that in a church. Even
though no one had talked about it, all those of us, who he had made
such an impression on that summer, sat with our eyes filled with tears
and a bunch of wild flowers in our hands.
Flowers On The Bus – Philosophical Stories

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