We are commanded to stand. Out of respect, recognition, loyalty, and patriotism. I know the command. I know the pledge. Each line is etched into my grade school memory.
It’s raining inside the bus. I sit at the back in an empty row, holding desperately to my coffee tumbler to keep my fingers warm. Drip. Drip. Drip. One of the few dry areas on my pants, that wasn’t soaked from the walk to the bus stop, is now a matching shade of dark blue. I shrug; sometimes it rains inside the bus.
At the next stop a woman in the row next to me moves into the last dry vacant seat to avoid the splashing water. Drip. Drip. Drip. There is now an empty seat below the drip. New passengers now stand because there are no more desirable seats.
Stand up or lose your job, career, family, friends, community, life.
I peer up from my book as a massive raindrop thuds onto the page and splashes my glasses. The emergency hatch is open. No one seems to know who opened it or why, but we collectively ignore the dripping, move away from it, stare at it, sip our coffee, accept the nuisance. Drip. Drip. Drip. We’re at the last stop before interstate.
I read today that Nike is now sponsoring (exploiting?) Colin Kaepernick. Radical or trendy? Where was this corporate support last year, I wonder.
I put my book away and gently fold my rain-splattered glasses back into their case, zipping my bag, holding it close to my chest to avoid the incoming rain. “Why would anyone open that fucking hatch?” I think to myself.
We’ll stand until our legs give out. We’ll do just about anything to avoid getting a little wet.
I hesitantly stand, tucking my bag and umbrella behind me on the now vacant seat. I look around at my fellow commuters, and then up at the hatch. I reach up and grab the red latch and shift it to the “To Exit” position before I pull sharply down on the surprisingly light emergency hatch. The texture of the hatch reminds me of the square plastic scooters we sat on, and inevitably ran over our fingers with, from elementary school P.E. It never occurred to us to change our grips on the handles to avoid smashing our fingers.
It still doesn’t occur to us to close the damn emergency hatch.
I’m too late. Everyone one the bus who was seated near the hatch is already standing.
K.M. Shultz is a transfabulous activist and future clinical mental health counselor. Currently, he works with college students with disabilities to make campuses more accessible. His true medium is mixed-media art, but he’s starting to dabble in writing.