Got to find some reality somewhere somehow. Got to find some kind of reality. I take my EBENCE magazine from my bag. I've read almost all of it except the music section. I usually skip that part but today I need some reality. These pictures on the page with their written words are more real to me than the ghost that just got off the bus or the chatter boxes who turned him into a cheek patting wraith. A full page has been blessed with the image of Luther Vandross. I read the accompanying article, trying to capture his sound from this description of it. I reach back in my memory for a masculine voice that fits his majestic face. I find Sam Cooke. Yes, Luther sends me. Jerry Butler. Understand the man is mellow as a cello. Larry Graham. One in a million chance that the voices I remember belong to the man that I see. There is also an article about sisterhood. Reach out to the sisterhood it says. It is vital, dynamic. No woman should isolate herself from it. I look at the three women--the sisters. They are still talking. They must be using Duracell batteries. Let me experience sisterhood with you, I want to say. Would they slow down their furious chatter? Would they put their words on paper or learn to sign and share their souls with me? Or would they say “Girl, I don't have time.” I look at them. I want to hate them for what they can do, but I can not. They are the ones I have loved and identified with in a book. Sister Hurston, Sister Angelou, Sister Morrison, Sister Naylor, Sister McMillan taught me to laugh with them. Yell at them. Slap high five over something we knew was true. Say Yeah Girl, I know what you mean. Or Girl you're crazy. Don't do that. I look at them. It's all very well to find reality in a picture in a magazine. But ain't nothing like the real thing. Now is the test. There must be something that I can do to reach them. Many people hear without listening. It must be conversely possible to listen without hearing. What do the ears have to do with listening anyway? Listening is done with the heart and the mind. I will listen to my sisters--listen to their faces. I will listen at the windows of their souls. The bus comes to an unscheduled stop by the side of the freeway. The driver stands to face us and his lips move. He takes some orange triangles from a box under his seat and goes outside. With no wind coming through the window the heat of fifty living bodies in close quarters suddenly asserts itself. I look at the faces around me. These are the expressions of sardines in a pressure cooker: annoyed, flustered, phobic, got to use it. The two talking sisters are too caught up in the general annoyance to continue jumping on the third one and she has withdrawn to a place where one must write poetry or go insane. I am listening as her eyes reach to some distant pain outside the bus, beyond the heat. No freeway can take me to that place. I must listen but now my courage is wavering. She has not looked at me and I do not know her. I want to know her. I want to know and feel this sister of mine. Courage? Presumption? Can I do and say the perfectly right thing to make it all better? Kiss it and make it better? Presumption? Presumptuous courage. Courageous presumption. Dumb to sit here hemming and hawing like Hamlet when to be is the only answer because I am. But "I am" is no good without "I do." I reach out and touch her. Courage or no courage I touch her. "Smile." I say. I listen to her startled uncertainty. "Are you okay?" I ask. She smiles weakly. Her lips move to say "Yeah, I'm fine." And heads back to that distant place. Should I let her go? Doesn't she have a right to go? Maybe she will find healing there. Maybe I can't help her anyway. Maybe.. .too many maybe's. Love is a verb. Maybe is an anti-verb. "I just noticed you seem like something is bothering you.” This time the motion of her lips don't translate into anything I can understand. I take out a sheet of paper. My portable telecommunications modem. "I am deaf. Please write what you are saying." My eyes are listening. They do not blink. She writes carefully, talking to the paper which does not threaten to dismiss her pain with comforting words. I am not there, but I'm listening. I read what she has written. Now I know I was presumptuous. I have no cure all answers. My silent, paper heart says nothing. We are torn away from this silent touch by the noisy practical business of moving to the new bus that has just pulled up. I listen. Does she feel--relief? Or like someone dragging her fingers at last on the lip of a deep hole only to be flushed back down by an avalanche of pitiless necessities. I am listening, but life is loud. Too loud to hear a woman on a table, a mother on the phone, a baby not ready to be born. I get on the other bus. Wind blows through the window but I have no answers. She gives me another sheet of paper. It says "Thanks for listening." Think of that. She didn't want an answer. She wanted a listening heart. Fifty living bodies just want a listening heart. The wind blows. I do not blink.