We spoke once, the moustache man and me. It was about three weeks ago as the late bus wound through the sad and lonely industrial park. The bus was surprisingly busy – must’ve been a mass overtime conspiracy. It was one of those new flyer buses, the ones with the “new” smell. I sat beside him on one of the mid-bus side seats, the ones that face the back doors of the bus, the ones with three individual seats. I had seen the moustache man on the evening bus every day for the past year or so. I didn’t realize that right away, however. During the winter months he was bundled up with face covered. It wasn’t until later, in the warmer months, that I finally recognized him and put him together.
I sat on the opposite side of the seat. There was one seat between us and it was occupied by his rucksack. As I sat down, he moved it, offering me the space for my own bag. I declined, told him that he could keep his bag there. I rested my bag on my lap and he held his pack on his lap. The middle seat remained empty. We talked small talk for the duration of the trip. He was pleasant and polite, even confessing to me his love for the music of Johnny Cash. We reached the station and parted ways, he on the 125, me on the 5.
On the next leg of my journey home, I thought about the moustache man and how things would be between us from now on. We talked on the bus, yes. Did this now mean that we were obligated to always talk to each other? And shouldn’t we be talking anyways? I mean, we see each other daily, why not be friendly? Should I say hello tomorrow? What if I try to mind my own business, just give him the ‘ol head nod and he gets up and sits beside me, thinking that we are now “friends”? If I ignore the guy completely will he think I’m an ass?
The next day rolled around and I found myself boarding the evening bus. The moustache man was there, sitting in his usual spot. The bus door slammed behind me. The bus took off. I gave him a barely perceptible nod. He gave one back. We sat in separate seats and said nothing to each other. We have not spoken or nodded since.
StreetRag is an urban weblog and podcast about the city of Edmonton, which is located in the province of Alberta, Canada. It is authored by Edmonton-based writer, web advocate, and poet Michael Gravel and is updated frequently with written urban vignettes, amateurish photographs, deuteronomous audio material, barely coherent musings and rambling ecumenical treatises. StreetRag is a love letter to a lonely prairie burg struggling with its big city ambitions and small-town feel.
The city is Edmonton. It's a subject, not a passion. E-Town is almost universally derided by outsiders as an unlivable tundra wasteland populated by oil-hungry redneck conservatives who despise the arts. All of that is true. But it's not the whole story. There is beauty here. Dusty snowfalls. Brilliant summers. A stunning river valley. A diverse arts community that flourishes. It's a place that inspires a gray relationship - not all good, not all shitty. For that reason alone it is lovable, for what is life but a grayscale?