My nose kept running so I asked the girl next to me if she had Kleenex. She said no, so I wiped my nose on my sleeve for the next hour. The girl looked contemptuous.
A girl asked me my name. Then, just before she got off the bus, she said “You’re gorgeous, Emma. Have a nice night.” At least, I think that is what she said, but I am slightly deaf so it could have been something quite different. Then the bus got caught in traffic so she was standing in front of me for the next twenty minutes, and I did not know what to do.
I emailed my friend a quotation from The Education of Henry Adams reading “Henry James had not yet taught the world to read a volume for the pleasure of seeing the lights of his burning-glass turned on alternate sides of the same figure.” Two days later he told me that he had sent me that quote in December.
A homeless man sat next to me and seemed to have no conception at all of personal space.
I was reminded of the poem about the Adams family by Stephen Vincent Benet and Rosemary Benet.
One day the bus was so full that I could not sit down. Instead of reading I started a loud conversation with the two fellow passengers closest to me. One of them was a tourist, but the other one rides that bus regularly, and ever since I keep running into her and we have to make strained conversation.
The Lakers were in the NBA finals and all the buses kept flashing Go Lakers! in between flashing the destination. But one bus I was on kept flashing Go Raiders! instead.
I had dinner with my mother at a Japanese restaurant. As we finished our dinner I told my mother that I was reading The Education of Henry Adams. She began to tell me about a book that was a biography of the father of Henry and his brother James. I said “Charles Francis Adams?” Just then the waiter began to clear away our food. My mother suddenly exclaimed “No!” and the waiter began to apologize profusely and put our food back. Then my mother had to explain to him that she was talking to me and to me that she was thinking of a biography of the father of Henry and William James.
A stranger on the bus asked me how my day had been. Ten minutes later he asked me the same question. Then he tried to get off the bus, but the bus did not stop where he wanted it to, so he began to swear at the bus driver.
Drifting in the dead-water of the fin-de-siècle — and during this last decade everyone talked, and seemed to feel, fin-de-siècle — where not a breath stirred the idle air of education or fretted the mental torpor of self-content, I lived alone.
If you are wondering why this is a social solecism, let me remind you that it is no longer the fin-de-siècle, and to carry over into the new century the habits of the old is iredeemably gauche.