I always wondered what they were all thinking. We were all in the same place, wanting the same thing but our reasons were different. I wondered what those reasons were and tried to deduce my way through my boredom. A black pencil skirt, a matching blazer and seemingly misplaced runners. She was an office woman who worked in the city and had a long way to walk before she could change into the more professional heels probably hidden in her deceivingly small bag. The un-tucked blue button up over navy slacks and an expression that looked as if the bulging, graffitied backpack was dragging him down to the worst parts of hell. High school senior. Looked about ready to hang himself by his crooked tie.
The game soon lost its already bland flavour as my eyes roamed what could hardly be called a crowd in most cases. I pretended to fiddle with my phone so that I wouldn’t look like a deranged stranger who stared intently at randoms. Every day I do this – text gibberish to no one while changing the song before it had a chance to even whisper a lyric.
How is it that everyone else looked like they knew what they were doing? They all knew how to move, how to stand, how to wait. And here I was, awkwardly trying to fit in with a group of strangers I may never see again beyond the next few, long minutes. Nobody else had this much internal struggle over waiting at a bus stop.
I stared at another unnecessary bus pass by. The driver didn’t even seem to glance in our direction. Not that I blamed him. There were only two buses that went through this town. The people around here mostly just caught the one that we were anticipating, not the hulking empty box that just turned an odd corner and went down a mysterious route away from the city. It seemed that not many people take the road less travelled. Sorry, Mr. Frost.
And then something shifted as the high schooler started rifling through his pockets and pushed off the wall. Squinting into the distance I spotted scrolling words and the three glowing numbers. Relief came over the crowd and a movement began. People seemed to creak and moan as they moved from their stationary positions like statues that were given life and were moving for the first time. They shook out the stiffness in their bones from sitting, standing and leaning for what felt like forever. I eagerly joined a jumbled line and fiddled with my bus pass.
The bus lumbered and sank in front of us like an exhausted toxic beast, letting out a weary sigh from its exhaust pipe. The doors abruptly open and in a somewhat orderly fashion, we started to file in. The atmosphere was akin to the one of cows entering the slaughtering house. It was an odd and surprisingly morbid thought that passed through my mind. Then I worried that I was becoming bitter already at the ripe age of 21. No. In this day and age, you can never be too young to be bitter. Was that a reference to the Seinfeld rerun I watched last night before I fell asleep in front of the computer again? The question ran out of my mind as I began to step onto the bus and-
“No more room on the bus. You’re going to have to wait for the next one”
The cruel rasp made my heart feel like it was being sandpapered, more because of the content of the sentence rather than the grainy texture of the voice that declared it. A voice that seemed to be anointed to all bus drivers once they graduated from bus driver school. It, of course, came along with a deep cut scowl, intolerance for youths and the need to arrive too early or too late to all bus stops.
Flushed with frustration, irrational anger and embarrassment, I walk off the bus and try to unimagine the mocking stares of the commuters going on their merry little way to where ever the hell they needed to go.
The next bus didn’t come for another 45 minutes. Shit. Shit, shit, shit. I really couldn’t be late to this business tutorial. I checked my phone even though I knew that there was no chance I would be able to make the class on time unless I could grab a ride off someone. For a split second I considered calling home and asking dad but quickly shook it off. I really didn’t feel like getting another lecture on responsibilities and what I was doing with my life.
As I was about to sink to the floor in defeated frustration and begin smacking my head against the pavement, I hear hurried footfalls and loud panting coming closer to me. I look behind me to see him frantically waving his left arm out, waving like a mad man. Confused and not really thinking rationally from the shock of not being able to function properly in society, I began raising my arm to wave back before it froze in mid air as the sound of another bus stopped in front of me. Well that would have been mortifying.
A blur of disheveled black hair skidded to a halt in front of me. When the doors opened, his brown eyes nearly rolled to the back of his head as he sighed with relief. He was boarding the bus that no one took. Well, at least, he was trying to. He desperately rummaged through his sticker-riddled bookbag while trying to apologise to the bus driver for probably leaving his ticket at home. Unimpressed and unsympathetic, the bus driver’s stubbly scowl and deadpan eyes all pretty much told me he was about to kick the guy off like the other driver kicked me off.
All of a sudden, something inside of me just threw its hands up and said, “Not today. Not again.” I quickly walk behind Mr. Messy Hair and slipped my bus pass in his hand. Feeling the weird disturbance in his quest to stay on the bus, he looked at his hand, shot up his eyebrows and turned and smiled at me. It was the kind of smile that made me really see the kind of guy he was, even though the moment lasted five seconds. Mr. Messy Hair had faint freckles dashed across the bridge of his really, really straight nose. A nose that sat between two ordinary brown eyes made extraordinary with the twinkle of relief and gratitude.
He swiftly dipped the ticket into the machine and took it out, flashing a smug, cheeky grin at the bus driver. He handed it back to me with a simple thank you, the smugness no longer on his lips but rather genuine happiness. The cheekiness was still there though.
I looked on with the bus pass still in hand as he walked straight to the back of the bus and sat down on the back seats.
I didn’t realize I was staring like an idiot before a voice almost identical to the first coughed out, “So are you just going to stand there or are you going to get on the bus?”
I was about to apologize and get off before I looked at my bus pass. It was the ticket that allowed three sections instead of my usual two. Odd. With an impulse that I never thought I would ever feel I quickly dip it in the machine. I took it out and immediately walked over to the middle of the bus and sat on the left.
This was exhilarating. The unexpected courage and giving in to a weird impulse left me with an adrenaline rush. It was if I just woke up really rejuvenated and was ready to take on everything.
But then the bus started turning that odd corner that would then go on a mysterious route away from the city. Suddenly the courage fizzled out of me and the adrenaline became much more like the unpleasant anticipation one faced when looking down at the steepest fall of the rollercoaster. What the hell was I doing?