Bus Stop

June 17, 2008
By Gillian Ashton, Guelph, OH

Late afternoon on St. James Rd the sun was beating down on the bus stop bench as if Apollo was sincerely angered by its simple presence. All would have been fine, if not for the aging man who forgot to wear his hat on this stifling May day. His head had fallen into his hands from shear heat exhaustion. This heat spell had come more quickly than anyone could have imagined or prepared for. It had been a cold spring with the last frost deciding to vacate just a week ago and the butterflies had not yet come to promise rebirth and the slow cooing of the morning doves had only just begun. The afternoon was in sight, distant but slowly arriving, and that only meant one thing; the bus was coming.
As Jeremiah Cooper baked in the sun, his mind was in constant motion. From gravity to introspection, to colour and to his trousers he so foolishly wore, his brain was on a marathon of wonderment as it pondered philosophies and facts. His furrowed brow, steadily trickled with sweat, and his receding hairline gave way to his graying mass of curly locks. For someone so completely organized, it was rather ironic to see that his hair was such a tangled nest of confusion. There was a time when he considered taming it with oils and gels but his perpetual laziness when it came to his appearance had gotten the better of him.
He looked down the end of his nose into the stratified light from the placement of his hands on his face. It seemed odd that he would simply come that early to the stop; however his gait could have been faster today because of the desire to get on that bus to arrive at his destination and do what he did everyday; he was that kind of man; he liked to get things done. A slow, unassuming yawn exited from his stomach and continued up his dry throat and out into the moist air to remind him that it was far too hot and he was more tired that he thought; he should simply be patient. He was so exhausted that he didn’t notice the body beside him as it slowly sat down to quietly wait for the suspiciously late bus.
“It’s hot.”
For the first time in ten minutes Jeremiah looked up, up at the dark-haired young man sitting next to him. Like Jeremiah, he was hot, very hot; the multilayered necklace of liquid beads dripped down onto his nose and eventually his neck, which progressed to his t-shirt being a deep shade of grey. He looked older that he really was at first inspection; you could see it in his eyes – he was even trying to grow a beard. Jeremiah remembered when he had once tried to grow a beard. He had been fifteen; surprisingly the girls didn’t like it; so rather than flocking to him as was desired, they mocked his pathetic attempt to gain some manhood from his worst nightmare that was a teenage girl. This boy was older that fifteen. As Jeremiah meticulously scanned his body and facial features, he understood that he had potential, potential to be enviously beautiful while being slightly behind the pack in his stage of growing up.
“Yes. I agree. Is the bus late, d’you know?”
“I’m afraid not, meaning that I do not know whether the bus is late or not. I was out for a run and I’d been out for a good forty minutes when my endurance decided to tucker out on me. It doesn’t usually do that. I’m quite the athlete but I guess the heat is a little too unbearable today. I’m training for a triathlon; my friend Gina is doing it too, and it’s going to be great.” Jeremiah knew not what to say. It was as if the world had accidentally hit a wall and had, for the time being stopped and looked inside itself as the boy was actually talking openly to Jeremiah. It was so new.
“I’m George. I’m new. It’s an odd part of town isn’t it?”
“Uh, sure. Do you happen to have the time? I would just like to know if the bus is late.”
“I’ve got my mobile.”
The idea of a mobile phone, the idea that a person could reach one at all possible times scared and saddened Jeremiah. To him, it would be a constant reminder of his situation and his perpetual senior loneliness. This being said, he was looking at George without hesitation, without unfamiliarity; he did look somewhat enticed but he didn’t know what to do with himself. This didn’t bother Jeremiah; he was a slide in the adults’ playground to life’s surprisingly awkward moments.
“Is that what you would like, the time?”
“Well according to this piece of technology, that dad always says never to trust, it’s ten past. Usually I wouldn’t even be up now, but Gina’s counting on me.”
The bus is seven minutes late; it’s never that late.
They waited in silence, one with nothing to say for too deep in thought of the day’s peculiarity that was making him unusually indifferent toward the change, while the other seemingly afraid of the older man’s harsh silence that deafened his over excited ears. The positions and states of mind did not change for another four minutes when George stood up as if the bus had stopped right in front of t men, its doors welcoming him onto the chilled, air-conditioned vehicle to take him home. The bus was not there but all the same he walked off the curb and crossed the vacant street. At the other side, he turned right around and walked back. He did this five more times, finally returning to his seat beside Jeremiah. He clapped the old man on the back gently in the site-specific spot between the back of his neck and his shoulder. It woke him from his thoughts of trains, of buses too, and this ludicrousness of not being punctual and considerate.
“How often do you take the bus, Jeremiah?”
“Everyday – more or less.” However sad and true it was, Jeremiah wasn’t about to lie, he’d rather gamble his insecurities away than tell a lie.
“Is it the same bus that comes everyday, a the same time?”
Jeremiah would not explain himself further to this incessantly questionable young man. He didn’t usually say much to begin with, preferring to allow others to talk, but with this one he barely knew where to begin. There were too many possibilities, too many paths the topic could go for a stroll on. It made Jeremiah queasy at the thought. He guarded his thoughts with all he possessed. If he didn’t have those, what did he have? As he mouthed the answer to that impulse of nerve endings forming a thought, the bus rolled up the hill, unassuming and seemingly on time. The men got on and went about the rest of their day

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