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: 9. April: The Dreamer Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In the present, on a crisp spring morning, Beth and Rachel ride with Beth’s favorite bus driver, the “exotically handsome” Rodolpho. Beth won’t tell Rachel what she thinks about while she watches him drive. Rachel worries that she’s wasting her time by sitting on the bus, but then she remembers that she has learned important lessons from both Tim and Jacob.
Rachel recognizes that she is learning important lessons from her days riding buses with Beth, but her old workaholic instincts continue to tell her that her time would be better spent otherwise. Thus, while Rachel has started to understand Beth’s radically different approach to life and relationships, for the time being, she is still very much stuck in her own.
Themes
Community vs. Individualism Theme Icon
Growth, Change, and Morality Theme Icon
Rachel asks Rodolpho how he met Beth, and he explains that they met on the night bus. Beth would talk to him about her life, and while he was too focused on driving to reply, they still became friends. Rachel realizes that Rodolpho doesn’t even know that Beth has a crush on him and constantly writes about him in her letters. In the past, he kicked Beth off his bus when she kept explicitly describing her sex life to him out loud. She desperately missed him—especially the poetry he would read to her. Eventually, he started letting her ride with him again, but only three trips per week.
Beth enjoys riding with Rodolpho for very different reasons than she enjoys riding with Tim and Jacob. Rather than trading wisdom or stories, their relationship is based around trading attention—Beth loves looking at Rodolpho and knowing that he’s listening to her. This variety in Beth’s relationships helps illustrate why she chooses to spend her life on the buses: it amounts to spending all day, every day with her best friends. Of course, she often doesn’t understand the limits of normal social interaction—like when she goes on inappropriate monologues about her sex life—but fortunately, her driver friends help her identify and keep to those appropriate limits over time. In this sense, Rodolpho has helped Beth just as much as Tim or Jacob.
Themes
Disability, Access, and Self-Determination Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Growth, Change, and Morality Theme Icon
Rodolpho parks the bus by an airport and tells Rachel and Beth that he used to want to be a pilot. But he worked so hard to fund his dream that he never spent any time with his wife, so he ruined his marriage. After his divorce, he doesn’t have the money for flying lessons. Now, he has found a new girlfriend, and he cares more about being happy with her than about flying. He lets Beth take a polaroid picture of him. Finally, Rachel asks him about her observation that the bus drivers all seem to be deep thinkers. He points out that bus drivers have all the time in the world to think about life and other people.
Rodolpho finally opens up to Rachel, which again shows how long bus rides help people build the trust and intimacy that are the foundation of close relationships. Rodolpho’s life story is a testament to the importance of such relationships, and it parallels Rachel’s own: she has dedicated herself so completely to work over the last several years that she has let her relationships fall by the wayside. And, like Rodolpho, she only truly finds happiness when she gives those relationships the attention they’re due—specifically, by reconnecting with Beth.
Themes
Love and Family Theme Icon
Community vs. Individualism Theme Icon