He talked about salvation and passing on your goods to others because you can’t take it with you. He talked about Oprah not having any kids and about people who leave billions to their dog. He quoted Mark 8:36 to the bus driver and turned his head a bit to see if the rest of the No. 66 west to Pulaski heard him.
“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” he asked the bus driver and crowd.
But it was something else that made me shoot up in my seat.
“No therapy, no counseling, none of that,” he told the driver in a hushed loud tone.
That’s when I realized I knew this man. He was telling the bus driver about how his wife tried to murder their child.
Flash back to July when I was doing a practice run to see how hard it would be to get from my house to my new gig at Loyola on my bike. I and a few other people had stopped to gawk at a press conference at the Chick-fil-A at Wabash and Chicago.
It was news, of course, that a conservative Christian said he doesn’t like gay people. I mean, it’s not news when a conservative Christian preacher or media figure who has millions hanging on his every word says that, or when a conservative Christian politician who has an actual hand in guiding U.S. policy says that.
But when it’s the head of a chicken company, well! TV news was all over that like white on TV news.
The scene angered a man standing near me. He started to fume and hold court. He started to talk about the horrors of the world, from a then-recent court case where a prostitute got custody of her child to every gunshot wound on the South Side that bloody summer.
“Chicken sandwiches,” the man said as a woman next to him nodded. “How can the media care more about chicken sandwiches than people?”
Then he talked about how his wife tried to smother their child. He said that to me, as if to get my attention. We talked for a bit. He told me how DCFS didn’t charge her with anything, or sentence her to counseling. I wrote about it for this site. I’ll link to it below.
And winter came. And in February he was riding my bus.
Same tiny dreadlocks, same swagger and style, still conducting an invisible orchestra with his hands as he spoke.
In summer, he wore a brown, embroidered shirt and matching shorts. Now he wore a brown swagger suit covered by a three-quarter-length leather jacket. In summer, he wore a baseball cap and sunglasses. Now he wore a dapper flat cap that matched his suit. He had a cigarette before. Now he had a to-go box from a restaurant.
And that phrasing, “No therapy, no counseling, none of that.” He said that in July too, although I didn’t include that particular line the last time I wrote about this man.
And the story. The same attempted murder. The same anger at DCFS. The same description of what postpartum depression really means. The same sad story told in booming tones to strangers on the same stretch of Chicago Avenue.
I can’t blame the man for becoming an echo if the story is true.
I believe him, I do. Or at least I believe that something happened, even if some details might vanish or blur.
The choice to believe ends with me, though. I can’t present the man’s tale as pure fact. I can’t tell you to believe a story just because this guy dressed like he had more money than the average person who shouts on public transit.
I can’t tell you to believe a story just because it was yelled at me twice on the same sad strip of the same little town where stuff like this sometimes happens.