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     It was the Silent Night: it was Christmas Eve. The stores, exhausted by the shopping rush, lay empty behind their tinsel facades. 125th Street was coated with slush, which cars cut in waves as they sped through. A man was standing at the bus stop when I got there, and before five minutes had passed there were six of us waiting. Two busses, like greenhouses, swooped past empty; we shifted from one foot to another, waiting for one to stop.
     Finally a bus pulled up with a gasp, and the doors accordioned open. There were no empty seats by windows, so I walked to the back and sat next to the door, facing the center of the bus.
     "Watch the door. Step on up. Watch the door, please." The voice of the bus driver sifted down through the conversations. I remember feeling sorry for him: everyone seemed homeward bound, but he had to keep on working. He hustled the travelers into the bus like cattle into a pen.
     He would call out "Watch the door, please," after two or three had boarded, making the ones left on the sidewalk wonder if they'd get on at all.
     At one stop there was an explosion of sound from the steps. A mustached Puerto Rican thrust his head through the door and shouted, "What did you close the door in my face for? You have no right to do that!"
     The driver was silent, and the figure in the doorway bounded up the two steps and lunged toward him.
     "You can't shut the door---bang---just like that," he went on, as heads turned so that eyes could watch. "Who do you think you are?" he shouted. A girl behind him put her hands on his waist and urged him to be quiet.
     "Son of a bitch!" he flung at the driver and walked to his seat.
     He was followed by the girl, who had skin the color of dark apricots. Her eyes were deftly penciled, and one was black-brown. The other, unseeing, had a circle of blue in its center, a spot of milk-blue which looked as if it would be slippery to the touch.
     Her eyes were lowered, though she held her head high. For only a moment she would raise them, with a flash of black and a sheen of blue-gray, and quickly lower them. There were five in the group, and they sat strung out along the aisle in front of me.
     After a clatter of consonants in their foreign tongue, their anger faded. Soon a brown paper bag was opened, and green-purple grapes were passed from hand to hand: from the couple in the rear who had the bag, to the couple in front of them, to a friend in the seat in front of that. Small bunches were passed back and forth, and smiles washed over their faces. The vigorous chewing was punctuated by laughter, and they swallowed the seeds with the grapes.
     A flurry of brown motion at the front of the bus drew my attention to a drunk who had gotten on by mistake. He flailed the air like a puppet whose strings had gone awry, and one stop later he clattered down the steps and off the bus.
     "Step up. Watch the door." The little lady in black started forward as if her coat tails had been caught behind her.
     Many were carrying gifts: green packages with red ribbons, red parcels in red-green-striped shopping bags, boxes covered in tin paper with thin bows perched on top. They had invaded Aunt Bessie's and Cousin Ted's to get gifts which little Mickie would surely find at home.
     "Where do you want to go?" A mumble from outside. Louder: "But where do you want to go?" A pause, and the bus left a vague little woman standing off the curb in the snow.
     A mouse of a man pulled the bell, and pulled it again as the bus slid past a corner. Another corner went past, and he tugged it three times, tersely. "Where're ya goin', Johnny?" he inquired.
     "I'm goin' home," came from the front of the bus.
     "Yeah, it looks like it," was mumbled into my ear as he got off two blocks beyond his stop.
     "Watch the door. Let's go." The old man could hardly pull himself up the steep bus steps, and he tottered as he walked to his seat. The spare figure bent in two places as he sat down.
     A little boy, hardly more than seven, bounced down the length of the aisle and grabbed the silver pole. I slid over in my seat, and the man next to me shifted in the other direction.
     "Thank you," the man with the little boy said, and the boy wriggled into the seat, threatening my trousers with his chocolate-iced shoes. He leaned back in the seat, turned his head around, and stared wide-eyed out the window.
     A few stops later, his older relation got a seat in the back, and he called, "Johnny." (Everybody was called "Johnny" that night.) The little fellow hopped onto the floor, and in one quick movement he was kneeling on the seat across the aisle, adjusting the guns in the holsters which hung down each side of him.
     "Sit here," said the man, patting the space between him and the window. With a series of fidgety movements he twisted around, used his knee and elbow and his Dad's hand, and was over the armrest and into the corner seat. The father grinned weakly across the aisle. The kid should have been in bed hours before, but I smiled heartily back at him.
     Then it was my stop, and I got off the bus quickly, to let Johnny, the bus driver, get to Brooklyn and his sleeping children and his wife. He'd need what little sleep he could get, because his kids would be up much too early the next morning. They would be anxious to see what Santa Claus had brought the night before---just then their daddy closed the door of his bus in a Puerto Rican face in Manhattan.