The 286

These were the years of the 286

Whirring motor and compressed air

Refuge and wait

The limbo between worlds

Paid my way with bills and change

Three cities

Two counties

Connected

One

A route northeast

To that community named after some ancient goddess

That near neighbor

Like border town

Like privileged kids slumming it

A place of everyday people

And everyday struggles

But for this passenger

Of danger and intrigue

A place for dreams

The second

To that county south

We once celebrated

The mall and the theaters

An air-conditioned heaven

Of casual dining and the promise of Disneyland

Not too far in the distance

And where should this bus take me to

But a seemingly dead-end job in the same city

Of dangerous machinery and physical labor

To side hustles in the early morning hours

To offices to sign countless documents

To pay bills for crimes that lingered and lingered

A life caught between stops

Requested only by something broken in me

Or never fully functional in the first place

How long could I ride my life?

Stare at my phone or look through windows

Watching Pomona

Diamond Bar

Brea?

With their streetlights and street signs

Deep nights

And early yearnings pass me by?

And car riders

Those privileged enough

To have never relied on the 286

To have never waited on that train of an automobile

Chugging and whooshing

Would ask,

“How do you do it?”

“Isn’t it dangerous?”

And each question

Illuminated like route marquee

Just how different

The lives of people

Intersected by route

Those who would never know bus

And those who would never know car

Because this is California

And public and transportation

Meet at different intersections

And should some experience

Unexpected hardship

Better

Perhaps

To commit white collar crimes

To consume prescription pills

Until they die

Anything to avoid the stench

Of passenger

The sharing of seat

The exchange of conversation

The abrupt confrontations

That could break out at an any moment

And no escape except

The next stop

A few blocks up

And who knows how long it could take

To get back on?

Or how hot or cold it would be

On the walk?

And you

I know you

You wrecked your car

Lost your license

But I still see you from the 286

Driving

Behind the wheel of something new

Because your money never knew penance

Your checking account never knew change

You borrowed more money from your parents

And had the nerve

To give me lectures

About how I needed to save

And for you riders still riding

I see you too

Sitting tight clutching purses

Earbuds in singing

Or quietly nodding

Those leaning over seats

Standing

Swaying

Engaging in impromptu interviews

Of your fellow passengers

Like it’s your own late night show

And though you would never admit it

This is the best your day is going to get

I promise I won’t forget

When car riders and drivers

See measures on ballots

See funds proposed towards transit

Lament corruption

And euphemisms for what they think of your lives

I will vote “yes”

For the renovations

The seats

The heaters

The air-conditioners

The wheelchair access

The bike rack

The wheels

The motors

May they carry you

And ferry you to your destination

Because the 286

Connects these cities

With a whirring motor and compressed air

You may ride it someday

Look at the schedule

Anxiously awaiting

Gazing at road, anticipating

Future’s arrival.


I wish you well on your journey.




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