Riding the Bus with My Sister

Riding the Bus with My Sister

by

Rachel Simon

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Riding the Bus with My Sister: 3. February: Hitting the Road Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In the present, at 5:15 a.m., Beth dances around her apartment and wakes up Rachel, who is sleeping uncomfortably on her floor. Beth calls her case manager Olivia and leaves her a message about the day’s weather—25 degrees—just like she does every morning. Then, she goes for a bath. Meanwhile, Rachel gets up and looks around Beth’s eccentrically decorated apartment, which reminds her of the room they shared as teenagers. In fact, Beth hasn’t changed much.
Beth is clearly delighted to be starting another day on the buses. The contrast between her energy and Rachel’s sluggishness again suggests that her lifestyle is better suited to her needs and desires than Rachel’s is to her own. Indeed, Beth’s apartment decorations show how she has managed to build her own unique life and independent routine, something that society doesn’t generally acknowledge is possible for people with serious disabilities. And Rachel’s comment about living like teenagers again foreshadows that she will revisit her family’s dark past through her time with Beth.
Themes
Disability, Access, and Self-Determination Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Rachel remembers that Jesse visits Beth on evenings and Sunday mornings, and he’s as obsessed with bicycles as Beth is with buses. From the fifth-floor apartment, Rachel can see the miles of low-rise houses that make up her city. She has always wondered Beth felt when she first moved out to this apartment on her own.
Rachel’s thoughts turn to Beth’s connections to others: the courage she needed to confront the loneliness of living independently, her extraordinarily well-matched relationship with Jesse, and her place in the broader social fabric of her city. Clearly, even if Beth’s intellectual life is less complex than Rachel’s, her social life is far deeper and more satisfying. This again shows how much Rachel stands to learn from her time with Beth.
Themes
Love and Family Theme Icon
Community vs. Individualism Theme Icon
Rachel dresses in black, as usual, and fills her coat pockets with gear, ranging from tea bags to her journal. Meanwhile, Beth “dress[es] with nothing but style in mind,” wearing bright green and purple. While Rachel sluggishly ties her shoes, Beth calls her a “slowpoke” and downs a bagel and Diet Pepsi. Then, she runs out into the cold, dark winter morning to catch her first bus, with Rachel following behind.
Again, Rachel and Beth’s clothes clearly represent the differences between their personalities and approaches to life. While Beth enthusiastically seizes the day, Rachel fills her pockets with objects that she thinks can help her deal with unforeseen challenges. This shows how she tries to preempt and control uncertainty, while Beth embraces it. In turn, this scene foreshadows that Beth will help Rachel overcome her restrained, uptight mindset.
Themes
Love and Family Theme Icon
Growth, Change, and Morality Theme Icon