Ida Agnes Masterson
by Michael Christian
Bobbi sat in the middle seat of the city bus as she watched people go by her window on bicycles, jogging, and talking on cell phones. She imagined how just weeks before, she too was one of those people; caring only of the day’s events like algebra homework, soccer practice, and boys. How she longed to go back to that, but she knew that her life was now forever changed and, for her, there would be no going back…ever.
With a shudder that not even the coldest chill could bring, her mind flashed to a lone coffin surrounded by bouquets. Each step brought her closer to her most fearful dread, yet love kept her trembling legs moving toward the casket. As she reached the side of the oak chest a deep, woeful cry escaped her lips. The mortician had done his best with the makeup in order to have an open casket, but bruises could still be seen on her sister’s face beneath the concealer. People like to say nice things like, “She looks so peaceful, as if she is just sleeping.” This didn’t look like slumber to Bobbi. This was final…this was lifeless.
The bus slowed to a stop, and Bobbi watched through her glass armor as an elderly lady stood from the bus stop bench and gathered her belongings. Seconds later, she was making her way down the bus aisle. Bobbi quietly sighed with annoyance as the blue haired senior sat down in the seat next to her. The lady smiled, and Bobbi forced a half-grin as well, then gazed back out the window as the bus began to move.
“A sad face for such a pretty girl.” The woman said.
“Just not much to be happy about.” Bobbi coldly stated as she turned back to face the smiling elder.
“Jesus loves you. That’s something to be happy about.” Charged the old lady, holding out her hand. “My name is Ida Agnes Masterson.”
Bobbi once again drifted back to recent conversation with a well-meaning relative. “Remember Job, from the Bible?” Her aunt had said. “He lost his family and all he had, but he remained faithful. And in the end, God gave him back everything he had lost, doubled!” This had enraged Bobbi. “God could give me back TEN sisters!” She screamed. “And it still wouldn’t make me miss Anna even one morsel less!”
“Bobbi.” She said as shook Ida’s hand.
“Bobbi, you look like you lost your best friend.” Ida said.
“I did.” Bobbi’s head dropped.
“Someone close to you has passed away.” Ida said tenderly. “I can see it in your eyes.”
“My sister, to a drunk driver.” Bobbi blurted out, not really knowing why she was baring her soul to a perfect stranger. “And with all respect, the last thing I want to hear right now is how much Jesus loves me.”
Bobbi’s eyes began to fill with tears as she spoke. Ida reached into her purse and pulled out a handkerchief and handed it to Bobbi, who took it and began to dab her saturated eyes.
Ida seemed to tear up as well. “You blame God for this.” She said with the gentleness of a loving mother.
“I’ve been taught all my life that God is in control of everything.” Bobbi snapped, “So yes, God took my sister from me!”
“He’s a big God.” Ida softly touched Bobbi’s hand. “He isn’t wounded when you blame him. Even Jesus asked “Why have you forsaken me?” as he died on the cross. What deeply concerns me is the direction this anger could take you.”
Once more Bobbi flashed back, outside of her third block English class. “They just make you feel better…take the edge off.” Said the slouching teen. “I know where to get some, I’ll let him know you’re coming. He’ll meet you at the Fifth Street bus stop.”
“I have no direction.” Bobbi sniffed.
Ida pressed her lips together and exhaled. “I think you do, but you can still choose another. I feel you’re at a fork in the road, Bobbi. One way leads through the pain, the other will keep it forever before you. Jesus will guide you on the first path. On the other, you’ll be alone.”
The bus slowed to a stop and Bobbi looked up, noticing that she had reached her destination. Out the window, she saw a man sitting on the bench wearing sunglasses, dressed in average street attire. He made no effort to get up in order to board the bus, as if he were waiting for someone. Ida’s words still echoing in her mind, Bobbi stood and shuffled past her, then made her way to the front of the bus. As she stepped off she realized she was still holding Ida’s handkerchief, then looked at the man on the bench, who smiled ominously at her and leaned forward. She glanced back at the cloth in her hand and noticed a monogram on the corner. Thinking it would be treasured to Ida, she turned and pounded on the bus door. The portly driver opened the door and Bobbi ran up the steps, viewing down the aisle. Her seat was empty. She scanned the bus from front to back and didn’t see Ida anywhere.
“Where is the elderly lady that I was sitting with? She asked the bus driver.
“You weren’t sitting with anyone, honey.” Said the driver. “I noticed you sitting alone and crying, but I’ve learned to stay out of people’s business as long as they aren’t bothering the other passengers. You okay?”
Confused, Bobbi slowly walked back to her seat. She sat down and, from corner of her eye, saw the man on the bench stand and remove his sunglasses. Her thoughts once more fell upon the handkerchief that bore initials, “I A M”.
“I’m not getting off.” She told the driver
Through a blanket of tears she read aloud as the bus pulled away, “I Am”.