The folks ahead of me in the queue hesitated getting on the bus. And when I finally got up the bus, I smelled their dilemma. An old lady in an old oversized tee, disheveled and seated by the exit eating a carton of takeaway noodles, had pooed either in her clothes or had it staining her clothes. The whole bus stank. Where I sat at the back of the bus the smell mingled with someone's medicated oil.
A grumpy lady seated at the front was urging the driver to persuade her to leave. An NS boy (a brash kid with a crooked neck I watched grow up in the neighbourhood) snapped at the old lady to get down the bus. She shouted back at him - "you army how to fight war like that". Caught, the driver didn't want to leave the bus terminal and radioed for help. I thought I heard him plead with her at one point that eating on the bus was not allowed. Poo, while inconvenient, was.
This went on for a couple of minutes. J and I looked at each other - should we speak up and ask the driver to please just move on, surely we'll all survive the stink. It was terrible, but so was this bullying. Soon as the radio comments grew, the lady got off the bus and we were told to do the same. Another empty bus had turned up.
For our bullying or complicit silence, for our bodies failing us, for our poverties and pity - it was a quiet shameful ride home.