“He forgot his hat!”
A black knit hat with a white snowflake intarsia lays on the floor of the E line bus.
I’m just tapping on, beeping my card against the fare reader, so I don’t see where the conversation starts. By the time I get to the standing space, everybody’s heads are up.
A woman with cropped black hair and roll-aboard luggage reaches down to grab the hat.
The white-bearded man in the stained Bacardi Limon coat reaches over. “Here, I’ll pass it to the driver.” He reaches over the little dog in his lap, wheelchair creaking slightly.
We haven’t pulled out yet; the light is red at Denny. The neon pink elephant Car Wash sign spins slowly overhead.
Her hand starts to reach the hat out towards his, but there’s another shout first:
“There he is! That’s him!”
Someone in a backseat has been watching out the window. Out on the sidewalk, someone with a backpack is walking slowly, oblivious, Beats headphones on.
“Driver, can you open this door?” It’s someone new joining in.
I don’t know if the driver’s watching; the light has changed. But the door opens obligingly.
“Hey! You!” Voices on the bus chorus out to the wearer of headphones, but those headphones must be good. The pedestrian doesn’t even look our way.
Taking matters into her own hands, the woman with the rolly bag tosses the hat straight out the door: a flick of the wrist, frisbee-style, backhand. We watch the arc of its flight, past the bus, curb, sidewalk, to whap softly on a construction fence.
The hat lands in front of the walker, who stops. The door swings closed. I don’t have time to see the expression on the pedestrian’s face; we pull away.
On the warm and bumping bus, ten strangers are laughing together.
“Should have got it on his head,” jokes the old guy in the North Face jacket.
“Eight out of ten,” quips the twenty-something leaning against the pole.
We’re all smiling in the light of each other’s faces. No disruption, just a moment.
The man in the priority seating opens his bible to the center, adjusts his seat.
The woman with the black hair turns to the woman next to her and continues a conversation about a restaurant.
I look down to my phone, start to flip through flashcards in Chinese.
My face is down, but the smile takes a long time to fade.