A bus transfer



I pushed open the door of the University LRT station this morning and felt the short surge of electricity that prepares me for a bodily encounter with a stranger who is going to ask for money.

"Hi, buddy, do you have a bus transfer?" the man asked. He seemed friendly.

Bus transfer, I said to myself.

"No, sorry, I don't have a transfer," I said quickly, eyes down.

That wasn't exactly true.

I was on my way to campus to find a place to read or write or try to read or write while checking social media. The truth is I had no real place to go this morning, and I realized that slightly disturbing fact reading Knausgaard on the train across the river from downtown. I have gotten to Book 5. Our teenaged hero  is back in Kristiansand after a minor hitchhiking odyssey from Norway to Greece.

I ended up at the library. It was habit that drove me there, some of the same sensation of panic I'd had when I walked around there during my years at gymnas had me in its grip now, I had nowhere to go and everyone could see that, I had always solved this by seeking refuge there, the place where you could hang about without anyone questioning what you were doing. 

I read Knausgaard for the honesty. I was in the same boat today. Nowhere to go, not really relishing the prospect of staying in bungalowville and watering the new lawn, trying to kill a couple of hours while Shelagh was at the Y, and, lo and behold, heading for the refuge of the University of Alberta where I could find a chair in a corner somewhere to read and write.

The train came out of the tunnel and into the wide open of the North Saskatchewan River valley. I looked at the High Level Bridge. I started reading again. Hungry and broke and heading for home, Knausgaard tries and fails until he finally succeeds at convincing car or pickup drivers to stop for him on the highway, or truck drivers to smuggle him aboard ferries. He immortalizes the drivers who raced past without a glance. And the woman at the ferry ticket office who denied three times his request for passage.

"Next stop, University station," the recorded voice on the train announced. I closed the book and put it in my messenger bag. I climbed the station stairs and got to the foyer and decided to walk outside and toward Rutherford Library. I pushed open the door, feeling a shot of panic.

"Hi, buddy, do you have a bus transfer?" a man asked.

"No, sorry, I don't have a transfer," I said quickly.

He stepped back. I stepped by. And then I said:

"I don't have a transfer, but I've got a bus ticket."

"Thank you," he said. "I just want to go across town."

I took the bus ticket out of my wallet and handed it to him. He said have a good day and smiled. I said have a good day, and walked toward the library.

The library was closed for the long weekend. I ended up a hundred metres or so from the table outside Java Jive in HUB Mall where I would sit with a light blend and do my English 309 assignments while it was dark outside. Expository writing with Ted Bishop 35 years ago.

Looking back




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