Subway Series #3: Forced Busing

by Steven Hill

Today, I'm taking the bus uptown, to visit my sister and my niece. I've tried to visit regularly since my brother-in-law left them four months ago for a fling with a floozy. My girl friend Estelle says that's just how men are. Her last boyfriend left her, and she eyes me suspiciously when she says this. I just keep my mouth shut at those moments. I'm smart enough to recognize an unwinnable argument. Anyway, today is such a lovely day, I decided to take the bus to Sis' rather than the underground sub way.

The guy sitting in front of me is hanging on his girlfriend, a bleach blonde Barbie doll in revealing tight black leather. He's quite a square chinned hunk himself, with perfect hair. Together, the two of them look like some ad out of MTV or Rolling St one or something. They're all trussed up in the latest chain-and-leather wear. How long does it take them to primp into place, I wonder? I try not to notice them.

The guy to my left across the aisle looks vaguely familiar. A little greying on the temples of his Auburn hair, with a gentlemanly demeanor and soft smile like Flipper. Meticulous dresser too, with a tight necktie and exquisite suit coat. Gary Hart, r e-emerging at last, I joke to myself? Nahhhh, not a chance.

The sun is reflecting brilliantly off the city and its vertical concrete and glass. On days like this I think the city is actually pretty. Sunlight can do that to just about anything. I think of pictures I've seen of sunlight reflecting off the snow p eaks of the Rocky Mountains, or of sunsets on red rock in the desert. Someday I'd like to see those places myself. You know -- travel the world.

Meanwhile, Mr. Hollywood in front of me has pulled out some reading material. Or rather, let's call it 'viewing' material. He is brazenly holding up, vertically elongated for all to see, the latest Playboy centerfold. Good god, get it out of my face, will ya? I notice that the conversation of two women behind me -- both with a child -- has suddenly ceased. They appear to be glowering at the "spread." Another woman behind me to my left has further buried her nose in her book. Two pimply faced skateb oarders at the back of the bus are giggling goofily, pointing to obvious parts of the centerfold's anatomy.

Good lord, I think, how much longer? Mr. Hollywood seems oblivious. He's determined to inspect every last inch of that flat reproduction of millions of colored microdots spread across the page. His woman friend pays no attention, she is busy tidying u p her bright red lipstick in a pocket mirror. The several women behind me grow more sullen, the goofy boys more raucous. I, sensing the shift, stir more and more restlessly.

"Hey, could you put that away?" I hear myself blurt out, half-wondering who said that.

Mr. Hollywood leers across the seat at me.

"What, are you sexually uptight or something?"

I consider his question a moment.

"Haven't you heard?" I shoot back. "This is the age of Women's Liberation. Feminism and all that."

It wasn't much of a comeback, I admit, but I've never been real good talking on my feet.

"Well I'm a feminist, and I think it's just fine," says his paramour, turning around to face me. I nearly fall out of my seat -- why, if it isn't Madonna herself, in one of her S&M black leather and chain incarnations! Looking something like a cross bet ween Marilyn Monroe and a chain link penguin!

"I'm a feminist too, and I also think it's fine," says the greying gentleman to my left. Now I recognize him -- it's Hugh Hefner! Hugh Hefner and Madonna, riding the same New York City bus! Holy Smokes!

I admit, my understanding of such feminist matters is not very great. I try real hard, but let's just say it's not one of my strong points, as Estelle would probably tell you. Still, I tried to articulate some halfway intelligent response.

"Wh-- Wh-- What kind of feminists are you?"

"I'm an 'MTV, push-up bustier' kind of feminist!" retorts Madonna.

"I'm a 'free expression, pro-choice, pro-pornography' kind of feminist," smiles Hefner, puffing on his pipe.

Well how many different kinds are there, I think to myself, realizing I'm getting in way over my head. I'm about to break the tension by saying something light about Hefner being out of his pajamas, when the woman who had been reading to my left s uddenly pops up like a cork.

"You two are no feminists, I'm a feminist!" she charges.

Holy Smokes! Gloria Steinham! My my, riding the city bus has certainly gotten a lot more exciting since the last time!

"I'm a 'true blue' feminist," flashes Gloria, with fire in her eyes.

"Well you're outvoted Gloria, two to one," gloats Hef. He and Madonna beam together like that buddy picture of Thelma and Louise.

"Your brand of feminism hasn't become undemocratic, has it?" sneers Madonna. "Besides, who are you to say?"

I would have voted with Gloria, but I wasn't sure if I qualified as a feminist or not. My grades in that regard are like those ones you get in high school: A for effort, D for content. To my relief, both the women behind me jumped up.

"We're feminists!" they shouted. "We're 'practical, common sense, single mom' feminists, and we vote with Gloria!"

That's it, the vote was three to two, the teenage geeks in the back being underage and ineligible to vote. One of the housewives grabbed the Playboy and tore it in two with her mighty dishpan hands. One of their young daughters gave Hef a tiny boot in t he shin, backing him down the aisle toward the exit. At the next stop, Hef, Madonna and Mr. Hollywood fled for their libertine lives.

I settled back into my seat, hardly believing what I had just witnessed. My my, I'll have to ride these buses more often. Wait 'til I tell Sis and Estelle about my day.

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