The beauty of her, it came to me one day as I watched her again board the #56 bus we shared each workday, was not expressed in any kind of classic way. Her face, although blessed with high cheekbones and clear golden skin, was plain, with no features to particularly note as pretty. She was thin and tall with reedy arms and legs, dressed rather drably, and her brownish-blond hair was always pulled back into a loose ponytail. No, her beauty was in how she moved, the way she carried herself. Maybe it was because I saw her over the years repeat the very same movements every morning that I was able to see it in her: her grace, the evenness to her carriage, the elegant way she moved her hands, even just to place her bus pass back in her purse. I began to appreciate this about her, peripherally I suppose. It’s rude to stare.

There were other regulars on the bus, of course: the jowly Greek man with wild curly black hair who was always eating something out of a white waxed bag; the ancient woman who no matter the weather wore a tweedy long coat, a kerchief over her hair, support hose, and slippers; the angry-looking young guy who would sometimes appear with all his ginger-colored hair shaved off. Businessmen in suits carrying laptop bags, giggling loud teenagers in packs headed to school, sunken-eyed sleepy middle-age women no longer looking around to see if men were checking them out – they all came and went, every morning, all of us stuck for a few minutes on the #56, going and doing the things we had to do.

It was this young woman that I noticed the most, though, and I wondered sometimes about who she was and what she did, and if anyone else saw what I did in her. Sometimes I saw her eyes flick over me, apologetically-quick, and sometimes she would raise the corners of her mouth in the tiniest smile of recognition with a polite nod, and I would nod and smile back in the same manner. Public transport etiquette . Past that, we never talked or made further contact – she always chose to stand even if there were seats available, her head raised to stare out the window. She got off the bus at Broad and 7th with lots of other people who worked at one of the huge office buildings there or maybe the hospital. The bus would pull away, and she would be lost in the crowd, and that’s the way it was, every morning, as five years passed.

The Monday after Christmas that year was cold and slushy, and the bus was filled with tired and crabby people with soaked shoes, not ready to head back to work. She boarded as usual, and I absently watched her delicate hands bring out her bus pass and swipe it in the machine, and something new caught my eye: a bit of light dancing on a very small diamond solitaire ring on her left hand. Ah, the Christmas Engagement Ring! Without even thinking, I smiled broadly and was happy that she was found. As she walked past me, I thought I saw her tiny smile become a little wider, if only for a few seconds.

The second week of February added a gold band underneath her diamond ring. The Valentine’s Day Wedding, I was sure.

Spring came and went, and as summer began, I noticed something was not the same in the easy flow of her, the way she moved. It was so slight that it took me a few weeks to realize it with any conscious thought. She seemed hesitant, slower, the dance of her had changed. The answer was soon made clear by her rounded belly: she was pregnant. Her stick-thin arms and legs remained the same as the baby grew in a basketball-like protrusion from her middle.

One particularly hot, hazy, and sticky morning, she boarded the crowded #56 as usual, nodded to me as she passed, and reached for the overhead pole about a foot away. As the bus moved away from the stop, a bike messenger sharply cut in front of it, causing the driver to slam on the brakes. As the bus lurched, she veered backwards, then fell forward into the aisle, landing on one knee and an outstretched hand, awkward. Appalled, I instantly got up, retrieved her purse from the bus floor, and helped her to her feet.

“Are you all right? Do you want me to tell the driver to stop?”

Her face flushed, she brushed back the strands of hair from her face that had fallen out from her ponytail, and spoke with a surprisingly-steady voice, “No, no, I’m fine, really. It’s fine. Thank you.”

I handed her the purse, and we stood. As she reached again for the pole above her I pointed my palm towards my open bus seat. “Here. Please.”

She glanced at me, waited and considered for just a moment, then sat. “Thank you.”

When it was time for her to get off, I noticed that she waited to rise until the bus was at a complete stop and after most of the other people leaving had already pushed toward the exit doors. I left the seat open and stood the rest of the way.

A few more weeks passed, and then one morning she did not board the bus. Ah, I reasoned, she’d had her baby. Nice. I thought of her, maybe at that very hospital by her work, or maybe already in her home with her husband and child, feeling the coolness of the new fall air, grateful to be done with summer and to be back to her own rhythms again.

I was very surprised when I again saw her board the bus after only a week away. The basketball bump was gone, but there was no husband, no pink-faced long-limbed baby carried in a baby seat along with her. She moved with grace again, I thought, which seemed both natural and odd at the same time. Her head down, she made her way back through the bus and came to stand across from me. This time I did not try not to stare and I looked directly at her face. The bus started forward, and she raised her head, and her eyes locked with mine. As she looked at me – right at me now - and I looked at her, her eyes slowly began to pool with tears, and the tears began to spill down her face, one after another, running down to her neck, then resting on her blue dress in small spreading dark dots. I had never noticed before that she had green eyes, and did not notice that I was crying silently along with her until I felt my eyes reflexively squeeze shut to clear them.

As the bus came towards her stop and slowed, she let go of the pole, opened her purse, found a Kleenex and dabbed at her face, and walked out, shoulders perfectly straight, fluid, beautiful.