An Angry Man on a Bus


The angry man on the bus yelled for at least ten minutes, and none of us really knew what he said.  He was a big guy with floppy black hair and glasses.  He yelled with a strong voice and pointed his finger.  At times he pointed at me, and I looked away and didn’t say anything.

This happened on Christmas Eve.  A group of foreigners – myself included – had gone out to a buffet in an attempt to make the holiday seem as though it was actually happening.  Spending Christmas in a foreign country is like smoking a cigarette in the shower.  It doesn’t seem right.  Although there were lights and songs played in stores, Christmas felt more like a vague notion, something that would eventually happen but somehow didn’t feel like a reality.  The oncoming holiday seemed as distant as grey hairs and grandkids.  In our own little room in the restaurant, we said “Merry Christmas” and smiled and talked about home.

After dinner, we got on the bus and that’s when we met the angry man.  For awhile, he sat in his seat and stared at us.  If one of my friends in the back of the bus said something, he’d jerk his head and glare in that direction.  All of us noticed the looks of death he was giving us.

It was only a matter of time before he blew his top, and eventually he began shouting in Korean at us.  We all quited down and said, “Sorry, no Korean.”  That of course didn’t stop him.  The remainder of the ride was filled with his loud voice.  Afraid he would get physical, I slipped my hand in my pocket and felt for my doorknob.  Under the man’s yelling, I heard my friend Ryan say, “He’s mad ’cause we’re speaking English.”  He was a bit older, probably in his forties, and he didn’t let up until the bus reached what turned out to be our mutual destination.  We all got off at the same time and – after refraining one of my friends who wanted to fight – we walked down the cold sidewalk in silence.  He walked behind us, a satisfied look on his big face.

We all have notions of what “home” means, and we all have certain things that don’t belong in our definitions.  For the angry man on the bus, white skin and English and conversations between people in the back of the bus and people in the front of the bus were not supposed to be in his home.  We walked away passively from him, but I imagine he knew we weren’t really going anywhere.  He would stumble into others like us again, and maybe he’d realize that all of his shouting wasn’t keeping anybody from coming through his window and making his home their own.  As for us, we forgot about him quickly.  The next day was Christmas, and we turned our thoughts to memories and to wondering, because the reality of the holiday didn’t exist here for us, but instead somewhere far far away.



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