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Bus stop at 40th Street and Telegraph Avenue

on November 18, 2009

The tall man in black sweatpants fidgets as he waits for the bus and talks into his cell phone. His voice is gravelly.

“One, two. What it do?” he says, leaning against the pole on which a sign explains what buses come to the intersection of 40th Street and Telegraph Avenue, and at what time. “I just wanted to holler at you for a minute about your boy.”

He walks in a circle and leans against the wall of the Subway sandwich store next to the bus stop.

“Every time I see that boy I get pissed off,” he says. “It’s not even like he has a reason. He’s smart. See, if he was dumb like me, then maybe it’d make sense. But he can draw. He knows computers. He could get a job.”

While a muffled voice comes from the other end of the line, the man walks across the sidewalk over to the curb, looks north, then leans back against the pole.

“Sometime I just want to beat his ass,” he says. “He don’t even come out of his room. Then when he does, he looks all like a werewolf or something, hair all wild, big-ass beard, looking like he just came out of hibernation.”

The 1R AC Transit bus pulls up to the curb. Its motor grumbles as the driver breaks next to the curb. A mechanical tone beeps, and the front doors open with a groaning blast of air.

“One-are,” announces a robotic voice.

Several people rush off the bus. The man in black steps on.

“Yeah, I’m on way downtown right now,” he says into the phone.

As the silent, sunglass-wearing driver pushes a button to close the doors and pulls back out into the street, the man in black lurches jerkily down the aisle of the bus, one hand on the metal rail attached to the ceiling, the other holding the phone to his ear.

The bus crosses 40th and heads down Telegraph towards the downtown skyline that looms in the distance.

Across the street, people wait for buses headed in the opposite direction, toward Berkeley. A middle-aged man in a white tee-shirt sits in his wheelchair, a newspaper or magazine folded in his lap. He waits patiently, unmoving. Next to him, a teenager raps out loud, reading from a notebook. He stands, rocking from foot to foot, and his shoes have neon green laces.

Behind the neon-laced rapper and the wheelchair-bound reader, gleaming Audis and Mercedes-Benzes sit inside an empty showroom enclosed by floor-to-ceiling glass windows.

A store called 41st Discount advertises 99-cent items. Outside its door, three young men smoke cigarettes. GLAMOR BEAUTY SUPPLY read the block letters attached to the building nearby, and down the block, a man crouches in the sidewalk in plaid pajama pants and a gray hooded sweatshirt. He has long bushy gray hair, and a long bushy gray beard. The man’s size and mane and beard make him look like an aged Aslan, displaced from Narnia, living in Oakland, and taking a cigarette break.

A disheveled woman in sandals and dirty jeans shuffles down the sidewalk, asking passersby for a dollar. She reaches the bearded man, extends a hand, and asks him a question.

“I’m smoking a cigarette,” Aslan says. “But I only got just one.”

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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