Red Voiced

The red flame atop her head is striking. From where I’m sitting, it is the only thing readily striking about her. Her nose is plain and her lips subdued. Her bleached Levis, nylon ski jacket and lug-soled shoes are practical. Her glasses set off her green eyes in a pleasant way. She stands with a genuineness that is attractive in its plainness. She gazes at the concrete floor mostly, occasionally looking up to see if her bus has arrived. She does the hair behind the ear thing quite well. Her ears are petite. A man asks her which bus goes downtown. She answers him with confidence, gesturing authoritatively to a place on the platform. It’s then that I catch a glimpse of her, or rather, hear a part of her. It’s not just the striking, deep chocolate sound of her voice. It’s her enunciation. Her clarity. Every word crisply conveyed with a world-weary tone that to me sounds a faint shade away from music. The man wanders away to stand where he was told. Red continues to watch for her bus. I contemplate a bold move, one in which I hand her the book of poetry that I have stowed in my pack and ask her to read a page or two aloud for the pleasure of our fellow bus riders. But I’m not that brave, and it looks as though her bus has arrived. She takes that fiery hair and crisp-hued voice and boards the 5. I sit on my bench and listen to the dowdy shuffling of feet.