top of page

Josh Luckenbach

While on a Trip to Amherst

I was waiting at a bus stop after writing late in a coffee shop, and an old man in tattered clothes was sitting on a bench there drinking from a paper bag, and he yelled something indiscernible that scared a woman also sitting there under the awning, and she got up and moved, and after a few minutes another woman came up, and the man asked if there was a bus coming, and she said the 43 toward Northampton should be coming soon, and he said I don’t care where it’s going just as long as it’s going somewhere, and when the 43 came the man was so slow standing up that the driver never saw him, and everyone boarded or got off that needed to, and the bus started pulling off, and by then the man was very close to the middle of the bus right along the curb, and he was stumbling anyway, and I don’t think he knew the bus was pulling off, and after the bus was gone he staggered off the curb and spun around and fell hard down on the road on his back, and his hat fell off, and his head slammed on the asphalt, and then the 31, which was my bus, was coming up fast, about to pull up where the man was still lying in the road in front of the bus stop, and this happened right in front of me, the bus moving fast straight toward the man lying in the road, and I felt scared, and did some piece of me think I don’t feel like dealing with this, did I think I just want to go back to the hotel, did I think I don’t want to touch this filthy man, did some piece of me think that in the fraction of a second before I stepped out into the road to catch the driver’s attention to stop the bus from hitting the man and then held out my hand, and the man grabbed it and together we, me and the man, tried to hoist him up, but his legs wouldn’t work, and he said I’m sorry, I’m trying but I can’t, and I said come on, you can do it, come out of the road, which was the only thing I could think to say, and I helped lift him back off the road over the curb to sit on the little cement blocks around a tree in the middle of the sidewalk while everyone else watched or got on the bus, and I motioned to the bus driver to wait, and I said to the man is there anyone I can call for you, because, again, I didn’t know what to say, and he said no, and the bus driver opened the door again and said do you want to get on the bus, and the man said yes and slowly made his way on, sometimes stepping forward and catching himself, sometimes falling back a bit though he meant to go forward, and once the man sat down the driver got up and ripped a small white plastic bag from a little strip on the back of his seat where several bags hung and gave it to the man and said here you go, just in case, and the man said what, and the driver said just in case, and the man said oh ok, no don’t worry, I’m fine in that way, and the driver, back in his seat by then, said ok, well I’d rather you have it and don’t need it, and the man said I understand, thanks for putting up with me, and after a few stops the man stood up to leave and said again thanks for putting up with me, and once he had gotten off the bus and fallen where the grass sloped up beyond the sidewalk and propped himself up to sit under some trees, the driver closed the doors and pulled away and called behind him to the passengers thanks for your patience everyone, and a few stops from there I got off the bus, and I had to walk a few blocks, and I just wanted to cry, and then I did cry in the dark on the road by myself, and then I went into an unlocked building at the university, and I sat on a wooden bench in there and cried more for a very long time, and I felt so much sadness and shame I half wanted to die, and I tried writing it all down, and it didn’t help, not even one little bit.


                    Dust streaks the window—
               fluorescent hum and creaking
                    down the old hallway.

bottom of page