There was a green man on the bus. Tall, lanky and wearing a Robin Hood type hat with a flower coming out if it. He had an old fashioned rucksack that appeared to have several hardcover books in it. When people looked at the green man he just grinned. Some of us couldn’t help staring because, after all, he was green. People are not supposed to be green anymore than they are supposed to be able to fly or have a third eye.
I know what you’re thinking, this fella was wearing make up. Well sir, if he was it was the best damn make up job I’ve ever seen. You see this sort of thing in movies but with trick photography and what not your eyes can easily be deceived.
There was a contentment about this man as if he was perfectly content with the world and his place in it. He gave off the impression of total self confidence without a hint of arrogance. Almost like he was a religious person who was sure of all the answers. That's no mean feat when you're wearing an altogether silly looking hat with a feather sticking out of it. And when you're green to boot. I wanted to say something to the green man but for the life of couldn't think what. I'm not averse to talking to strangers but usually do only if there's a pressing need to, not because they are green.
An old man got on the bus with what must have been his grandson. Maybe even his great grandson. The old fella looked 85 if he was day. The little tyke looked no more than five. I think they were Chinese although I can’t be sure. The bus was nearing Chinatown so it stands to reason. Anyway the youngster couldn’t keep his eyes off the green man. The old fella said something to him sharply in what was probably Chinese and was probably along the lines of, “stop staring, it’s rude.” So the child looks straight ahead, straining against his better instincts to do so. He also makes his whole body erect and proper and there was no question but that it was uncomfortable for him to do so.
But you know how kids are, he could only keep it up so long. Finally he breaks from his straight ahead stare and looks up at the green man. Not only can he not not look, he can’t not say something. It comes out like this: “why are you green, people aren’t supposed to be green.” The old man immediately admonishes the child with angry words and a stern face, but the child's question is out there just the same.
The green man smiles real big and looks down at the kid. He says, “well son, people can be whatever they want so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. Sometimes we can’t control what we are and we learn to live with it and maybe even embrace it.” Everyone on the bus is staring at him, many with their mouth wide open as if in shock. Its one thing to see a green man, its altogether another to hear him speak.
Just then when the green fella had finished saying his piece, the bus came to stop. There were a few people who couldn’t get off of that bus fast enough. But I also noticed a couple of folks who seemed to change their mind about getting off. They were maybe thinking that the green man might have more to say and they wanted to be there to hear it. It’s not every day you see and hear a green man.
In addition to people getting off — or in some cases, like I said, staying on — the bus, a lot of people boarded. It was one of those bus stops that is a busy point of the bus line. You know the kind, owing to its location there’s always a passel of people there. Anyway the bus filled up real good and I lost my direct line of sight to the green fella. It was standing room only — this was near rush hour, ya see — and there was barely room for one more person as the bus continued on its way.
I heard the green man’s voice again but owing to other noises I couldn’t make out what he was saying. It sounded from the few words I heard that he was just having a normal chat with someone. Because I couldn’t see him and could barely hear anything he said, I focused on my book. I always take a book with me on the bus and usually have my nose in it the whole time I’m riding.
A few stops later the bus half emptied. I looked up and saw people crowding out the two exits. But I did not see the green man. He had already gotten off. Believe it or not I felt devastated. It was as though I had missed an opportunity and a once-in-a-lifetime one at that. Why hadn’t I struck up a conversation with the green man? I could have at least asked him some questions. He seemed happy to talk and probably wouldn’t have hesitated to address his unique skin color.
I thought about getting off the bus and looking for him. Maybe he’d only just gotten off and hadn’t gone far. But it seemed to much to hope for. I also wondered if perhaps I’d see him again. Many people catch the same bus at the same time everyday. Perhaps the green man would be a regular. But that too seemed wishful thinking. The more I pondered the situation the more I was convinced that this was a one shot deal. I sat glumly on the bus until my stop. I was unable to read or to think of anything other than the green man and what he could have been and what he meant. Maybe he symbolized something. He was, perhaps, the embodiment of some ideal. He could have been a call to judge people for who they were and not what they looked like. It finally occurred to me that I was making too much of him. Maybe he wasn’t really green at all and it really was make up. Hell they were doing all kinds of miracles with all kinds of technology these days so how hard would it be to make a guy look green if you really wanted to?
It also seemed to me that if he really was green there would have been something about it in the papers. Somewhere on the internet there would have to be a reference to this fella. He couldn’t have just fallen out of the sky. Although, come to think of it, that was about as likely as the notion of a man with green skin color.
It took well into the night, after dinner and a couple of TV shows, before I was able to shake the image of the green man out of my brain and dismiss, or at least set aside, questions about what he was or what he meant.
I never did find anything about him in the papers or on the internet. It was as if I was the only person who had seen him. I rode that same bus at the same time again and never saw him. It was a mystery and I reckoned it was one that would still be there on my death bed. I never spoke of it to anyone else. What was the point? They’d think I was pulling their leg. It would raise too many questions I couldn’t answer, like why I hadn’t tried to talk to him.
It’s been three years now and I’ve not seen him nor any other green men, nor heard anyone nor read anyone who referenced him. Hell, I’m beginning to think I dreamt the whole thing.
But I didn’t. I swear it.