Working on a developing planet like Earth has its drawbacks; for one thing, there’s the money problem. There is simply no way for me to draw from my bank account back in Thorgelfayne. My salary is deposited back home in a Hapdorn bank, where I can’t lay a finger on it until I go home. If I walked into the First National Bank of the District of Columbia and requested a wire transfer from Thorgelfayne, I’d be locked up for sure! Well, that comes from working on a planet that is completely isolated from the Interstellar Monetary Fund.
The reason I’m thinking about money right now is because I’m tired of the city bus system! I’d love to buy a car, but with my salary as a helper at Chau’s pet shop, that is a hopeless ambition.
Which brings me to my present circumstances: I’ve been waiting for the bus to Anacostia for an hour and a half! After a hard day at work, I need to get home and relax.
The platform was filled with would-be passengers in various states of despair and frustration. A very fat lady was harassing some poor Metrobus official who knew nothing about the problem and could do even less to solve it. A group of teens at the end of the platform were in the process of reverting to the wild—best keep an eye on them! My seatmate, however, just sat there patiently the whole time. He alternated between rereading his neatly folded Washington Post for the umpteenth time and meticulously examining his fingertips. He was a tall, intellectual-looking black man. His clothing and his personal grooming showed that he had more pride than money.
“Hello,” I began, awkwardly reaching out my right hand, “My name is Bobo.” The man looked at me briefly, but didn’t say anything. He weakly shook my hand. “We’ve been sitting next to each other on this bench for so long, I felt I should introduce myself,” I explained nervously.
“Yes, it does seem that way,” he agreed dispassionately. He glanced at his watch. “If the busses don’t start getting here pretty soon, I’m going to start out on foot!” he resolved.
“That is a bit drastic, isn’t it?” I inquired.
“Oh, no,” he smiled. “I could walk a few blocks down the road and catch a bus on another line. Just because the busses aren’t running on this line, doesn’t mean the other lines aren’t running normally. It would take me quite a bit out of my way,” he admitted, “but I would eventually get home.”
“I see,” I said. After an eternal pause, I asked him his name.
“You gotta promise not to laugh,” he implored with serious eyes. I promised that I wouldn’t. “My name is Dexter,” he sighed, as though I were released from my promise and laughter was expected to follow.
“I don’t get it,” I said, shaking my head. “That’s not a funny name.”
“Well, some people think it is,” he insisted, and began to unfold his newspaper again.
We sat there for another thirty minutes or so, chatting on and off about the latest rumor that a bus was coming.
“I’ve noticed something about you, Dexter,” I began.
“What would that be?” he asked, rolling his large brown eyes at me over the top of his newspaper.
“Everyone here is frustrated or angry about their bus being late,” I explained, “including me! But you just sit there coolly accepting your fate. Why?”
Dexter slowly folded up his newspaper and laid it in his lap. Then he turned to face me. “I’m an invisible man,” he said, “for me it doesn’t matter when my bus comes.”
“An invisible man?” I asked, somewhat mystified. “I don’t seem to have any trouble seeing you!”
“No, I don’t mean that way,” he smiled broadly. “I mean that I am always overlooked and ignored.”
Then his life story poured out. His grades were high, but through some ‘accident’ he was not included in the honor society. He stopped going to his school reunions because no one seemed to recognize him. His efforts at work were overlooked in favor of more conspicuous colleagues.
“It’s a hard life,” he sighed, “but I have resolved to do my very best, even if no one cares.” He looked at his fingertips again, but this time it looked like he was fighting off tears. “It’s very exhausting, you know, to live like this.”
“Certainly there is someone in your life to whom you are important!”
He dismissed the thought with a wave of his hand. “Most of my relatives are dead, and my mother is so preoccupied with my sister’s children, I think she forgot she had a son!”
“Don’t you have children?” I pried.
“No, I’m not married,” he replied.
“Well, there’s hope yet! Who knows what will happen,” I beamed optimistically.
“I am not getting married,” he said with clenched teeth, “I’m not the type. I’m a loner. Trouble is, I’m an invisible loner,” he complained. “I wish I knew how to make people notice me for once!”
Just then several busses pulled up at once, so our departure was imminent.
“You’re a pretty smart guy,” Dexter flattered me, “and you’re the first person who’s voluntarily talked to me in a very long time.” His voice grew urgent as it became clear that we were about to board different busses. “Can you give me any advice? Is there anything I can do?” He was practically pleading with me, “Can you help me?”
I only had a second, and I had to say the right thing. “You have to work this out yourself,” I said apologetically. He gave me an exasperated look. He wanted more.
“There is no bus to wisdom,” I shouted, “You have to go by foot!”
I lost Dexter in the crowd, because I am so short.