The young woman struggled to get her baby stroller onto the number 8 bus because the driver had stopped too far away from the curb and there was a snow ridge she had to navigate. An older man who was standing near the front door came forward and helped her. She parked the stroller in the wheelchair space and sat down across from me. That's when I started to take in the details.
The baby was well protected from the cold in a snowsuit topped by a blanket. He slept soundly, his wee brown face barely visible under his blue wool hat. His mother leaned forward to check on him and tuck the blanket in more securely and when she did, her jacket which was too short rode up her back and revealed her knobbly spine. She wasn't dressed for the weather, but perhaps she was wearing the only coat she had, I don't know. I do know her running shoes were soaked and her hands were blue with cold. After she finished tending her baby, she turned toward me and smiled. At first I was taken aback by the six piercings on her wan face and the faint bruise over her eye and then I returned her smile. We didn't speak. I had to leave at the next stop but the questions that entered my mind are still there.
I wonder if she was going to Mary's Place, the shelter for women and children that's on the number 8 bus route. I wonder if the shelter was full, because it's usually full to bursting. I wonder why she had so little to wear. I wonder where the father of the baby was and whether he cared. And, I remember the story of the babe born in a stable on a winter's night because there was no room in the inn.