Ruby's Love Story

(This is an actual true-life story from about a year and a half ago. To this day, Ruby's commitment still emanates with me. It IS possible to find the love of your life and always be with them.)

     As I stood at the bus stop, impatiently waiting for the bus to arrive, I couldn’t help but notice the fluttering in my stomach. It’s an odd reaction for my body to have for a woman I barely know, yet here I stand hoping and praying she will be on the bus with an empty seat next to her. 
     Ruby and I met under unusual circumstances. Our relationship began a few weeks ago when she climbed onto the bus and, with no other seats available, I graciously gave up mine. Surprised by a chivalrous act in a day and age of un-chivalry, she appeared pleasantly shocked and thanked me before claiming my vacated seat.
     Last Tuesday, Ruby turned 83 years old. The first time I met her she was carrying two bags of groceries in plastic sacks I guess weighed more than she did. Her ebony skin carries a youthful glow which even through the creases of her years, give her a much younger demeanor. Always impeccably dressed, Ruby carries a certain nobility about her learned from the days of boarding schools and etiquette classes. She never slouches; her shoulders always back with a subtle respect always demanded in the most feminine of ways. This four foot-nine inch lady carries a sense of knowing her place in the world and she’s perfectly content with it.
     The second time I spent with Ruby was exactly a week later. This time when I got on the bus she was already there. Even though there were a number of other seats, we caught each other’s eye and with the recognition of the gesture from a week earlier floating between us. I asked her if it was ok to join her. She seemed rather tickled by my manners and said as much as I sat down.
     “They don’t make them like you anymore you know.” she said. Each word perfectly annunciated.
     “I’m sure there are a few of us out there still, but I appreciate the compliment.” I said as I smiled back.

     We ride for a couple of brief stops before she shyly asks me while looking out her window, “Do you know of a game called: Would You Rather?”
     Finding this an odd question, I offer hesitantly, “I think so.”
     “There were a couple of girls that got off the bus just before you got on and one of them kept telling the other she wanted to play: Would You Rather? ,and the other wouldn’t play. I have never heard of the game before. What is it?”
     I respond, “If it’s the game I’m thinking of, one person asks the other two things they normally wouldn’t want to do and then asks them which of the two they would rather do.”
     Ruby gives it a second or two then replies without ever taking her eyes off the passing scenery, “You mean like go to the mall or shop at Walmart?”

     Smiling to myself I say, “Yeah, kinda. Except you’re supposed to pick two things you would never want to do.”
     “But I don’t want to go to the mall OR shop at Walmart!” She looks at me like I missed some point of hers.
     “Point taken.” I can’t help but chuckle before furthering, “More like…Would you rather…eat a cup of worms or drink a cup of spoiled milk?”
Ruby’s whole body seems shocked by the question. She blurts out, “Neither! That’s disgusting!”
     “Well that’s kind of the point of the game, I guess.”
     Ruby and I watched the landscape roll in silence for a bit before, out of nowhere, she answers, “I would rather drink spoiled milk.” She then pressed her lips together and gave a subtle nod of her head which confirmed she had made up her mind. Then without missing a beat, she asks of me, “Would you rather eat raw broccoli or raw brussel sprouts?”

     “Neither!” I offer up a little too quickly. “You’re supposed to pick things that are shocking or disgusting, but in this case, broccoli.”

     “You remind me of my husband.”

     “You’re married to a 43 year old white man?!” I quip back.
     She breaks into a wide grin and I actually get a laugh out of her. “No! He hates vegetables too.”
     When she laughs, it actually brings to the surface the little girl in her. I see the girl her husband fell in love with so many years ago. She seems to become embarrassed before she turns back to the window and its televised landscape.
     Trying to draw her back into what she asked for, I respond, “You’re right, I don’t like vegetables. Let’s see…Would you rather…lose a finger or a toe?”
     Without giving it any though, she exclaims, “A toe! I can hide a missing toe with my shoes!” She then gives some thought to her next question before asking, “Would you rather… be attacked by a bear or an alligator?”
     “Ruby, I’m impressed! You’ve really stepped up your game!” She gives me this coquettish smile that reflects back from the window she’s looking out of and I again see the little girl inside.

     “I would have to say an alligator. I’m pretty sure I can outrun a bear if attacked.” Not knowing at all which is faster.
     The bus pulls to Ruby’s stop and I stand to let her out, instinctively grabbing her grocery bags and handing them to her. She thanks me, we exchange niceties and say maybe we’ll see each other again which has become our routine.

     Now, another week later, I stand anxiously, waiting to see if she’ll be on the bus today. We have spent four rides together since the first and each time I’m just as anxious as the last. Sometimes I replay our past attempts at Would You Rather through my head but more likely, I’m thinking about our discussions of politics, religion or even ‘kids today’.”

      The bus crests the hill and comes to a stop at my feet. I climb aboard and, sitting in her usual seat, is Ruby. While she’s always dressed in her Sunday best, today she is put together in all purple. She is even wearing a purple beret which sets off the tufts of gray hair that spring out from under it. Her jacket and skirt match her hat and today I notice that for the first time since we met, she is wearing high heels. While not high enough to be inappropriate, they’re high enough to make me worry about her safety.
     Taking my seat next to her, I remark, “Don’t you look nice today?! You must have a big date planned!”

     Ruby gives me a brief smile and answers, “As a matter of fact I do! Today is I and my husband’s anniversary.”

     In past conversations, I had learned that Ruby and her husband, Micah, had been married for over 53 years. This was both their second marriage and they were never able to have children together. I had noticed in conversations past that her husband had been her favorite topic. I turn to her and recall for her benefit, “Today is your 54th then, right?”

     She seems a bit surprised that I remember before replying, “That right! Fifty-Four!”

     “Well congratulations! If you don’t mind me asking, what’s your secret?”
     Ruby looks out the window and seems to be really putting some thought into the question. After a few beats she answers, “Talking. Two people have to know what is going on in the other’s head. How else are they going to know what the other wants, needs or expects? Communication is what worked for us. My husband has always listened to me and I appreciate him for that. He is my best friend first and my husband second.”
     I would have to agree with that answer. My experience has been that relationships go sour when the communication stops. I’m just as guilty of it. I have people in my life I want to say so much to but am afraid to pick up the phone to do it. I’m more afraid of what they’ll say than what I’ll reveal. I also have people in my life I wish would say what is on their mind. I share this fact with Ruby.
     Ruby seems perplexed by what I am saying, staring at me in disbelief. “You HAVE to tell them what’s on your mind! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by being completely honest with your feelings and what you expect of them.”
     “You’re right.” It’s not like me to be this hesitant in a conversation but there are other reasons I am being lazy with my half of the discussion. I ask, “Have you and your husband always been together?”
     “We had some rocky times but we never separated. Even when I was mad at him I still loved him dearly. It hurt me when we would argue because it meant lost time we could be doing other things we liked to do.”
     I immediately raise my eyebrows and shoot a mischievous grin at Ruby. “Oh yeah?”
     Ruby becomes flustered and I can see the heat rise in her cheeks. “No! I didn’t mean…!” Then reluctantly, “Ok, yes, I guess that may have been one of the things. We did other things as well though. We’d go to parks, we’d travel, or sometimes just going to the store together was a joy for us.”
      “I take it you two don’t fight anymore?”
      “Never!” she answers before I get a chance to completely ask.
     My stop is coming up and I don’t want to get off. I have some selfish need to hear the rest of her story, to try to learn more about Love, Happiness and Togetherness; something I desperately need to know is out there. I make the decision to ride the rest of her trip out with her. Maybe I’ll learn a little more about life if I do.
     When the bus pulls to my stop she gives me a questioning look. I stutter and stammer before confessing, “I want to keep talking.”
     She nods a subtle acceptance before I further ask, “Did you ever think of leaving him?”
     “He was a good man.” She replied. “A real good man. He made me laugh even when he made me cry. I couldn’t picture a day of my life without him. It seemed rather ridiculous to walk away from that.”
     “You weren’t even tempted?” I ask disbelievingly.
     “Oh, I had opportunities. Anytime some man found out we were having problems it seemed they were eager to fill his shoes. It was during that time I realized how one-sighted most men can be. My husband wasn’t like those men. It made me even more committed to him because I learned how different he really was.
     I have selfish reasons for asking these questions and I suspect that she knows. “Had he always been faithful to you?” I ask cautiously.
     “I have no doubt he was. Anytime we had a disagreement, he spent the days after making it up to me. It made us stronger and I don’t think he even realized it.”
     We pass the high-rise apartment building she told me in a past conversation she lives and I look at her questionably, asking hesitantly, “Wasn’t that your stop?”
     She tells me she’s on her way to see her husband and that she just came from the store after buying her husband an anniversary card. I’m trying to piece everything together and conclude her husband must be in a nursing home or assisted living facility. My mind then goes to the devotion couples beyond my years actually give to each other. Circumstances I can’t imagine. Happenstances all of us realize are coming, all of us promise to power through, but none of us actually know if we really can. In Ruby’s case, it seems she stepped up to the challenge and in typical Ruby style, stared it down until it gave in.
     Ruby pulls the card from her purse and begins fingering it nervously. I wonder the reasons behind her nervousness but can’t quite place it. I am beginning to feel a bit of a voyeur and try to focus on a location beyond the windowpane opposite the aisle I’m sitting in order to give her privacy.
     We sit in a self-imposed silence for the next five minutes or so before Ruby’s frail, overly veined arm reaches up and pulls the stop-cord above the window. I immediately look around and try to figure out where she may be going. There are four corners to the stop. Two of those corners contain gas stations. Of the other two, one contains a dollar store. When my eyes finally gravitate to the fourth corner, I see nothing but a chain-linked fence at first. Ruby is accumulating herself as the bus comes to a stop and I snap from my curiosity to let her out.
     There is a look of sadness and longing I’ve never seen before cross her face as she stands. For the first time, I see fragility in Ruby. I want to ask if she wants me to accompany her but I know her answer will be, No.
     As she stands in the aisle of the bus, she composes herself before turning to me and, with eyes beginning to brim with tears, tells me, “When you know it’s right, don’t EVER let go.”
     She walks down the aisle with the presence of a dignitary. With each step she seems to grow greater in stature and even greater in virtue. I still don’t know where she is headed other than she is on her way to see her husband.
     The driver waits after she exits for her to cross in front of the bus. Luckily the light turns red and I watch as Ruby begins walking up the street where the chain-link fence is. With each step she seems to become more anxious. As I wait for the light to change, I lose sight of her as she’s beyond my field of vision. Finally, the light turns green, the bus turns left and I capture sight of her again.                               
     I’ve never been up this street before and within a few seconds see the opening she is headed towards. At the opening of the gate she is guiding towards is a large sign proclaiming: Holy Cross Cemetery.
     My heart sinks.
     I can’t even comprehend at this point. Our bus is powering along and I can’t see the entrance to the cemetery anymore. I actually get up and move to the back of the bus hoping to get closer to Ruby. This may seem silly but it’s true.
     I don’t know how long Ruby’s husband has been deceased but with Ruby, it didn’t matter. He was as alive in her heart as he was before he passed. This day was the day of their anniversary and nothing was going to keep them apart. For whatever reason my mind asked: What if the roles were reversed? What if Ruby were the one who went first? In my heart of hearts, Micah would have done the exact same thing.
     Today, I witnessed a rarity in this generation’s love-spurned populace. I witnessed an ever-lasting love that actually exists. It doesn’t matter that their love was founded during a couple of generations ago. Their love is still in full form and function today. As my bus pulled to the next stop, all I could see in my mind’s eye was Ruby kneeling at her husband’s headstone, placing the anniversary card against it and closing her eyes before reminiscing of moments past. I couldn’t help but think of how lucky Micah was with having married Ruby; sure they had a great marriage but long after he passed she still pined for him. I know without a doubt he would still pine for her had she passed before him.
     For whatever reason, I never saw Ruby after that. I looked for her. I still look for her to this day. There is a part of me that hopes she is now with Micah, because frankly, that is where she really wants to be.
     No matter where she is, I learned a couple of valuable lessons: Love does exist, and when you find it, never let go of it, no matter what. In this day and age where everything is accessible, the one thing that is not is Love. You can’t find that in a search or a Craigslist listing. It has to happen naturally like it always has. Ruby and Micah were lucky enough to find it and I hope you either have already found it or soon will. In the meantime, send me your thoughts on the subject and what you ultimately think love is.

All my best,


  1. The goose bumps rose on my skin as Ruby fingered the card for her husband…
    it was then that I knew.

    Poignant - well written – captivating,


  2. Lola,

    Thank you for the kind words. It was a story I needed to share. It came at a time in my life I needed a "Ruby" to cross my path.

    Thanks again,