Monday, October 19, 2009

Theme week seven

Every school day for 12 years he opened the bus door for me. He was old on my first day of school and didn’t seem to age at all over those 12 years. His face was wrinkled and always looked dirty. His beard was unkempt, with streaks of tobacco juice through it. “Morning kids”, was the greeting, I got when I was five, and “Morning kids” was the greeting I got at 18. Old Zeke, he was consistent.

Old Zeke dressed the same every day, green work pants, blue flannel shirt, and red suspenders. Day after day, that same outfit met me when I got on the bus. If he didn’t have a cigarette in his mouth, it was full of chewing tobacco. It wasn’t until I was about 12, I would guess, I realized that his outfit never changed, no matter the weather, no matter the season. That same outfit is also when I started to think of Zeke as a person. In my twelve year old mind it was inconceivable that someone would wear the same clothes every day, and I was really obsessed by it.

I sat in the front of the bus (the geek seat) for the next week, trying to get the courage up to talk to him. Finally I asked him why he drove the bus, and got a clipped “it’s a job” for the answer. He had become somewhat of a fixation for me (probably they’d call me a stalker today), but there had to be an intriguing story, I was sure of it. After a few more days in the geek seat, he talked a little bit more. His voice was raspy and phlegm filled, from years of smoking, I suspect. He talked about the weather, he talked about the roads, but never the stuff I wanted to hear. What the hell would make a guy wear the same clothes every day?

Finally after a couple months of chit chat, I asked him what he did before he drove the bus. For the next five minutes, I got a lesson in WWII history, better than anything I could have read in a text book. Zeke told me about landing in Normandy, and being thankful he’d made it home. He and I talked every morning after that, first about the war, then about returning home. Zeke told me he’d had a girl before he went “over there”, but when he got back, she’s found someone new. His parents had both passed away while he was gone, and Zeke had come home to find he had no one. In his blasé way, he described having his life torn out from under him, like most talk about buying socks. By my senior year, I knew more about WWII and it’s after effects on soldiers than any textbook could have ever taught me.

I never found out why Zeke wore the same outfit every day and after a while I forgot that had been my goal. I had made friends with a truly unique man. They friendship I developed with him is one of the most memorable friendships of my school years. I have forgotten the names and faces of those my own age, but I have never forgotten Zeke.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The alarm clock incessantly buzzes and it’s 7:00 am. Feet touch a floor that feels like ice, time to start another January Day. At 11:00 last night the weather was calling for snow, so I open the bedroom blinds with trepidation. “Oh God” I think, they were right this time, as the snow swirls outside my window.

I hit the thermostat as I walk through the living room, hoping the bathroom will warm up by the time I finish breakfast. I finish my toast, and head for the shower. The heat hasn’t melted the frost off the windows yet. God, I hate winter. I shower in water hot enough to boil my skin, but when I step out, I’m shivering before I even start to dry off. I run to my bedroom get dressed in multiple layers and head out the door.

“Why didn’t I have an automatic starter put in?” I mutter as I look where I parked my car. Pieces of silver, I think it’s my car, are visible through a mound of snow. Snow is flying around, like thousands of pieces of glass hitting me anyplace not covered by material. My lungs ache from the sub-zero air rushing into them. I wipe my dripping nose and the tissue freezes to my face. My finger and toes are numb from the cold. I pick up the shovel and start to make a path to my car.

The snow is wet and heavy, moving it is like moving a mountain of rocks. It is so cold and wet as I continue to clear the path to my car; the chill has gone clear through to my bones. My clothes are almost as heavy and wet as the snow. The process of making a path to my car is painstakingly slow. The hot chocolate I brought out with me is presently more similar to a Dunkin Donuts frozen drink. I finally make it to the glacier that has moved into my yard overnight and lo and behold there is a car under it.

I go inside to try to warm up and make a new cup of hot chocolate. Dry hat and gloves and back out I go. My boots are heavier than infamous concrete shoes as I slog thru the half-ass path I’ve made to my car. I break through the crust on top and try to get enough moved to get the door open. The door handle is stuck and my wet glove freezes to the metal before I can get it open. My glove pulls off and my hand is immersed into icy white arctic tundra that has decided to make my driveway its’ new home. My fingers ache from the iciness that penetrates them. “Winter sucks” is one of the more lady like thoughts I’m having right at this moment.

The mass of snow is finally removed from the car, and I get into start it. The interior of the car is as cold as the outside temperature. The windows have an inch of frost on them and the seats radiate cold. The motor reluctantly churns on and I crank the heat to high and return to the house to warm up again. More hot chocolate, a steaming shower, and dry clothes I just stand and stare out the window.

The snow is still coming down, but I can see a hole clearing through the windshield. Another cup of hot chocolate and the windshield is clear. A dry coat, gloves and hat and I’m bundled up enough to brave the arctic chill again. “God I hate winter” I mumble as I walk out the door.