I was thirteen when I first saw the man sitting lonesome at the bus stop just outside our town. He had a brown suitcase by his feet and his black woolen hat on his knees, and he looked like he was waiting for someone who would never come. The bus came late and so I sat beside him for a while. We were the only people there, but I don’t think he noticed my presence at all. Soon it began to rain and the drops fell heavy on our feet. I put my feet up on the bench but the man did not seem to notice the rain either or he did not care. He simply stared to the east and sighed.
I saw the headlights of the bus some distance away. The man put on his hat, picked up his suitcase, gave me a little smile and walked away.
I was sixteen when I saw the man again at the same bus stop just outside our sleepy town. He had the same brown suitcase and the same woolen hat, and the same impression of someone waiting for something that would never come. The bus came late and so I sat beside him for a while. This time I asked him where he might be headed to. He looked at me with sad brown eyes and said, “The place I’m headed to has not arrived.” I did not know what it meant, but I asked him no further. The sun was high, but to the west, it looked like rain.
I climbed aboard when the bus arrived, leaving the man to sit alone. And as the bus moved on, I noticed he was looking to the west with a smile on his face.
I did not see the man again for a long time to come, but I would find myself thinking of him from time to time. Sometimes I would wake up in the middle of the night thinking about what he meant by those words. But then, as the years went by and life went on, I thought of him less and less, until by and by I forgot what his words had been.
A silhouette of a man would harry my mind sometimes, and the echoes of some turn of phrase would ring in my ears; but reality could not be forgot. Making a living was what I did although there was not much life to be made. I was neither happy nor sad, then a day came when everything changed.
One day I met a woman whose love I couldn’t have. I would wake in the middle of the night with a picture of her laugher and her sorrows on my mind. I would wake in the morning with words of her apology ringing in my ears, and they were sharp and their meaning was sure. I knew that they would stay that way for the rest of my days.
I was not yet old but youth has let me go. I had my sights impaired by the vision of a love that would never be. I wondered often if the clouds overhead would ever fade away.
One early grey morning I decided on a whim to leave it all behind and begin anew. I gathered all the things I wanted to take with me and they were few. I told no one before I boarded a random bus that would take me far away to a place I’d never been before. And when I told my friends I’d gone I did not tell them where I was headed for, for I did not know where the bus would stop or where I might get off along the way. And when I told them I’d gone, I did not tell them if I would ever return, for I did not know if I would ever return again.
At noon I got off the bus at a stop in a sleepy old town. It all looked familiar but I could not say for sure. Not knowing which way to go, I sat down on the bench and stayed for a while.
In the afternoon a teenage boy appeared and sat down by my side. He had a black cap on and a blue back pack on his back. I knew he looked familiar and maybe I knew him a lifetime ago, but the image in my mind was not quite clear. Then there was a rolling thunder, and rain began to fall. The drops fell heavy on our feet and the boy put his feet up on the bench. He caught me looking and his bright brown eyes reminded me of where I was and all that used to be. I remembered the man of long ago and the cryptic words he said to me. The boy then asked me if I was waiting for the bus.
I thought awhile before I answered, and then I said, “I’m waiting for the rain to pass.”