Transit Central Bus 33 Latin District
“Good morning, sir. How much?”
“Welcome aboard. You look familiar. Two dollars, please.”
A petite lady, named Estella, thinking to herself. He does look familiar, but I don’t who. Very handsome. I know, he looks like Pappa Acosta. He and his wife, Aricela, rode this bus for years. I think he may be kin to them.
“Good morning, beautiful woman. May I sit in the seat on the other side of you? I would enjoy a pleasant conversation with you.”
Stella thinking to herself. He moves in fast. Why does he want to sit next to me? I’m an old woman, no longer have a passion for love. He could have any young woman out there. They would beg for him. But I do like how he shows an interest in me.
“‘Buenos días, Eduardo,’ said Katrina with a smile. A beautiful day for a ride with you.” She eyes Gustavo seated next to Estella. How in the world did Stella find him? When he sees me, he will get up and follow me. He will like my red halter. I will lower the front so he can see my fruit from the vine.
“It’s a beautiful day. Look, see the seagulls circling around the bay? They are looking for fish for a nice nourishing meal,” said Gustavo. “Yes, I do see them. I enjoy watching the pelicans and how they drop down to catch a fish. Such keen vision,” said Stella.
“I’m really enjoying this ride with you? Why are you so kind to me? Most ignore me. I’m just an old woman now. I’ve lost my looks. No longer a Cover Girl. By the way, since we are a little friendly with each other, I think we should exchange names. My name is Estella, but you can call me Stella. Your name handsome lover, I mean fine looking gentleman?”
“Me name is Gustavo. But you can call me Gus. I ride this bus once a month for sentimental reasons. My Mama and Pappa rode this bus for years to the Latin district to sell their sandwiches. They had a very humble beginning, but made a way for themselves with two umbrella carts in the market. A simple and modest life, but they were happy.
“You know, Stella, you remind me of someone, but I don’t know who. You have a sweet scent that emanates from you. Let’s see, honeysuckle. No, that’s not it. Narcissus. No, fragrance not sweet enough for you. Look over there, the large live oak. It has a vine of wisteria running up it’s trunk. I think that’s the scent for you. Let’s call it A Lover’s Concerto,” said Gustavo with a smile at Stella.
The next passenger to board the bus is holding the hand of a beautiful little girl. A frequent rider, Maria Santos. “Good morning, Stella. This is my granddaughter, Teresita. We don’t get to see each other much, so this is special time together.” “Miss Stella, it’s so nice to meet you. Hope your day is swell,” said Teresita in a bit of a shy manner. ” “You have such manners, who showed you how to meet and greet?” “My Mom, and Gram, too. We’re making cookies today. I can’t wait. Gram said we will make them the old-fashioned way. Lots of dough and chocolate chips.” Maria whispers, with hand partially covering her mouth, “the old fashioned way is the slice and bake, from the dairy case.” Both chuckle.
“Why are you riding this bus? You should be driving an expensive car like the other professionals.” “I don’t drive a fancy car. My car is in the shop for repairs. It’s always in the garage for repairs! But I drive it because it was Pappa’s first car. He was so proud of it. It’s a Ford Falcon Futura, 1962. It has a few upgrades. The color is sky blue. Before the car, Mama and Pappa rode this very bus, for ten years. It’s an antique now.”
Stella responds, “Well, I’m an antique now. Model year, I rather not say. The first to come off the assembly and I started. That was my beginning.” Both laugh. “Gus, I think I remember your Mama and Pappa. They sat in these very seats every day. A very nice couple. So in love. His name was Gustavo and your mother’s name was Aricela.”
The last patron to board the bus is, Diego. Eduardo, the driver, said to Diego, “Been to the market?” “Actually, I’m meeting my son and grandson at Shady Breeze Park. The breeze from the Gulf and the shade of the massive wind blown oaks is a great setting for a picnic.” “Diego, your three bags, groceries?” said Eduardo.
“They are three bagged lunches. One for my son, Miguel. It’s a pressed Cuban with everything on it. The other bag is for my grandson, Juan. He likes the golden arches, but today he is getting a nice peanut butter and jelly sandwich topped with a generous spread of grape jelly. His dessert is a banana. Oh, and for me, I’ve got a chili burrito with meat, melted cheese and jalapenos. Hot, super hot, fiero! A juice box will help cool the fire. And our drinks are all apple juice boxes, one for each and three for me just in case I need extra.” “Sounds like it will be a great time together. Simple pleasures are usually the best in life,” said Eduardo. “Yes, simple times and simple pleasures,” said Diego looking ahead for Shady Breeze Park. “They should both be there, I’m bringing the food and me!” said Diego with a laugh.
“Stella, do you drive?” “I’ve never driven a car, but my late, dearly beloved, nearly drove me crazy. But, I maintained my sanity, somehow. He expected me to wait on him hand and foot. I did it for awhile, but I stopped when he told me to get to the market and get his select chili con carne. Then he said pronto. I don’t know what happened to him. That was the end of the hand and food service, but I loved him.”
“Where are you going today, Gus.” “Really nowhere. Just riding the bus in memory of my Mama and Pappa. They started out with two umbrella carts just making Cuban sandwiches and empanadas. Mama at one corner and Pappa’s cart was parked at the other corner of Seventh Avenue and Esplanade. They had a friend, a pastry business, who allowed them to park their carts inside overnight. They always stopped at the bread bakery every morning to purchase hot fresh Cuban bread. The patrons on the bus enjoyed the aroma,” said Gustavo. “I have six carts now with umbrellas selling the same sandwiches in the district. Two uncles and four of my cousins sell from the carts. The sandwiches are made fresh every day. All in the family,” said Gustavo.
“Where are you going today, Stella?” “I’m also going to the garage for a diagnostic and service. It’s the medical center. Today is my annual check up. I’m sure all systems are in order. Then I go on about my business for the rest of the day.”
“Stella, I’m going to ask you something personal. Do you have a fella, a boyfriend?” “No one has asked me that question for years. No, all I have are Zippy and Zappy. They are my fellas. Two pugs!” “Well, I’d like to have your hand. We could ride together every day on this bus, just like Mamma and Pappa.” Stella thinking to herself, I can’t believe it, he is making a proposal to me. I’m happy with myself. He is sort of a fantasy. We can’t be lovers. I must tell him no. I don’t mean to break his heart. Why me and not the other hot chicks? Friends only, I must tell him.
“Gustavo, dear heart, you have been so nice to me. I can’t accept your proposal. I prefer to live alone. I have my daily habits and enjoy my friends on the street. So, it’s friends only,” said Stella with a bit of a sad face. “Stella, I wasn’t asking you for a proposal of marriage. I want us to just be friends and ride this bus occasionally together. Also, I would like to take a walk with you down Seventh Avenue and have a Cuban sandwich and dessert, one day. Would you like and accept my invitation?” said Gustavo with a smile and his dark black wavy hair as his dark brown eyes looked directly into the eyes of Stella. “I accept,” said Stella with a smile.
“Where do you live? If you don’t mind me asking.” “Well, I’m not well off. I live in Billy Goat Pastures. No paved roads. Only a walking trail. I live a simple life there. I have lived at fifty four Billy Goat Trail for a long time. It’s a simple frame house with a nice kitchen window. And it’s paid for! I’m not overhead in debt like a lot of these young ones. I have shade trees, and a laced rusty fence where my honeysuckle and morning glories cover the fence. Such a beautiful view. The fence allows Zippy and Zappy to run free. Also, in the morning, I have a hot beverage and a hot buttery biscuit topped with strawberry jam. I lift my window up just enough to provide the sparrows a little seed. Springer, the squirrel, waits his turn, then he gets a few peanuts to enjoy. That’s my life. It’s simple. I may be poor, but I’m happy. I wouldn’t have it any other way,” said Stella with a smile and joy as she talked.
“Where do you live, Gustavo? If you don’t mind me asking.” “I live in a simple frame house behind the business district. I’m happy there. I do have a professional job, and do have a fancy car, but I do not want to live the life of the rich and famous. I’m happy there, too.”
“My family, particularly my daughter, Sissy, is pushing me to upgrade my lifestyle. She said to me, just the other day, ‘Mama, you don’t have to live like this anymore. You can move up to a better home and lifestyle. We have a room waiting for you.'”
Gustavo to Stella, “Sounds like you are a woman of conviction.” “Yes, I am. You know Gustavo, when you move in with kin, someone like Sissy, there’s a price to pay. Also they try to run your life. All Sissy wants me for is a cash drawer. She will ask, ‘Mama, we need a few groceries, could you help us out?’ Upstairs in a room. I would be a damsel in distress there. Besides, I have no long hair for you to rescue me.” Both laugh.
“You have a happy spirit. No matter where you live, you make it home, but not a big home in a fancy subdivision. Sounds like you are happy in Billy Goat Pastures and wouldn’t have it any other way. Good for you,” said Gustavo with a happy tone of voice.
“So, where do we go from here, Gustavo?” “Our own separate ways. That’s the way it should be. We both know how to be happy. You are far from being poor, you have a rich outlook on life,” said Gustavo.
“Will I ever see you again, Gus?” “You bet, I ride this very bus once a month. Besides my car may need to be in the shop again.” Both laugh. Stella gets off at the medical center and Gustavo continues on to Seventh Avenue.
Simplicity could be the very thing that will make you happy. A simple life could bring you much happiness. It does for the passengers on this bus.