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Bus Journey MAG
I sometimes wonder whether all this thinking that I do on the bus to school is causing me serious psychological harm.
I can't say that I think about anything especially meaningful. I mean, everyone thinks when they haven't got anything else to do, don't they? It's a bloody long trip as well. I'd do homework, I guess, but then I'd look like a loser. I'd read, but then I'd look even more antisocial than usual. I'd play solitaire on my phone, but who wants to play solitaire for forty-five minutes straight?
I have my seat, of course. My seat. Downstairs, on the right, two rows from the back. An indefectible balance of unobstructed window view – perfect for both daydreaming and resting my head in my early-morning drowse – and enough room by my feet to stuff my bag. Some days there is someone sitting in my seat. Some little kid, 12 or 13 maybe, with stupid curly hair and serious behavioral issues. I mean, why would you throw tiny bits of scrunched-up paper at people for no reason? I don't find it funny. The victim does not find it funny. No one finds it funny apart from that stupid little boy, and since when is anything funny when it's just you laughing?
He's in my seat again today.
I can see him sitting there as I display my mugshot of a bus pass to the driver (who sneers as he compares the grumpiness of my photo to the grumpiness of my actual face). Today the kid is wearing a ridiculously oversized beige coat. I don't like beige. It's the color of camels and old cars from the 1980s, two things I do not have an affinity for, especially after my “incident” on the second day of my vacation in Egypt last year. Camel ride. Poo. That's all you need to know.
Luckily, however, Beige Kid isn't throwing paper today. Must have used up what remained of his homework. As I walk shiftily past him, toward my back-up seat (situated behind my primo seat), I observe him drawing strange pictures of eyes in the condensation on the window. There must be about twenty of them, all with dilated pupils and eyelashes that spring outward in vertical spikes. They are most definitely looking at me, and Beige Kid has drawn one right next to my back-up seat. I quickly rub it off with my sleeve, with the silent excuse that I want to see out the window.
God, this kid is a freak.
But whatever. Anyway, as always, my morning bus routine begins.
1. Place bag so legs can be arranged comfortably.
2. Replace bus pass in zip-up bag pocket.
3. Remove iPod and mints from zip-up bag pocket.
4. Take a mint, place in mouth, replace mints in zip-up bag pocket.
5. Put iPod headphones in ears.
6. Select appropriate album depending on mood.
This happens every day. Literally. I sometimes wonder if I have slight OCD.
Today's album choice is Bryan Adams “Waking Up the Neighbors.” I love Bryan Adams. And I'm in a peppy mood today. A peppy mood calls for peppy ྖs anthems. Hence, Bryan Adams.
I turn it up really loud so I can't hear the younger kids laughing with their stupid cawing laughs. Full-volume loud. Yes, I will be deaf by the time I'm forty, but I think if I have to listen to these kids screeching at each other for forty-five minutes every day, I won't make it to forty. I won't make it to eighteen. My earphones are broken, so one is slightly louder than the other. I can put up with that.
Lots of other kids listen to their iPods on the way to school, silently staring out the window, watching the same sequence of scenes they've watched every weekday for God knows how long. I often wonder what they're thinking.
One boy who sits opposite my primo seat always looks very sad. He's got long bangs that are not quite fashionable and make him look a little disheveled. He has one foot up on the seat, and a scarf on. He never sits with anyone or talks. Like me. I never sit with anyone. Or talk. I relate to him in that respect. I relate to a lot of people I never talk to. It's like we're leading parallel lives. I think we're all just waiting for the day when we won't have to ride the bus anymore, when we won't have to listen to the screams of the hysterical middle-school kids anymore, because we're out there in the real world, living.
Oh dear, I just thought too hard again.
It's misty today. Proper misty. There wasn't much point me wiping away the condensation on the window. Not only is the window so dirty that my view is a blur, but now that the bus has driven down a hill, the mist is so thick that it feels like the bus is flying through clouds, or through a vision. Like an out-of-body experience, where there isn't anything else in the world except you and the bus, drifting silently together into nothingness. I usually gaze to my right out the side window, but sometimes I like looking forward and trying to take in the views of all six bus windows at once. It makes me feel like I'm in a spaceship, hurtling through the gaseous exterior of a planet. I feel invincible.
Then the mist clears, and I remember I'm stuck on Earth.
God, it smells so bloody gross on this bus. Moldy deodorant and Fanta. Does anyone even clean this bus? My school shoes stick a bit to the floor. And the middle-school kids have started throwing their lunches again. Why would you waste your lunch? Lunch is the single hour of peace in a school day. You can sit with your friends and for those few precious minutes you have no other purpose in life but to fill your stomach with flavors that your mouth has been craving since you finished your cereal six hours earlier.
You don't have to think about homework, coursework, how you're going to get four A's on your exams, that club that you hate going to and need to quit, how you think you're too quiet at school and should try to make more friends, that teacher you said you'd go and find last week and haven't yet, the e-mail account you keep refusing to check because you know you've got a scornful e-mail from said teacher, what you're going to do at college, what you're going to do after college, how the hell you're going to find a husband before your eggs run out, how you're not going to waste your life, how you're going to lead a fulfilling retirement ….
Sandwiches are my favorite. No, wait, just bread. I could happily live on bread until I die.
What makes me the most sad about the lunch-throwing is that for each of those sandwiches, some poor mother or father woke up early to make sure that their precious child had sustenance for the day. The sandwich has been neatly buttered, the filling has been carefully sliced, the sandwich flawlessly halved, and wrapped up like a Christmas present in plastic wrap or tin foil, with the knowledge that for another day, their child will have fuel for the afternoon. That's what I think about when I see a sandwich squashed on the bus floor.
The bus jolts unexpectedly, the driver perhaps underestimating the strength of a speed bump, causing my iPod to shuffle – a particularly annoying feature of the latest Nano.
For a second, I properly take in everything around me. Some six-graders from the boys' school that I see every day in their jackets are talking about which ginger actresses are fit. The middle-school kids at the front are having a war over who can insult someone in the most imaginative way. A few girls from my school are obviously talking about boy issues. I can tell from their faces. Beige Kid is drawing a largely inaccurate rendition of the male anatomy in Sharpie on the seat. The hum of the engine beneath my feet is like a vacuum, and I begin to wish it would suck me in.
Then a new song starts – Michael Jackson's “Black or White” – and my insides stop churning. I don't go back to Bryan Adams, because I like this song. I think “Black or White” is the most ironic song ever. I quite like irony. Just saying.
I wonder what Long Bangs Boy is listening to.
We're just driving past a graveyard. I make it my goal each day to read a different gravestone. I love reading them. Weird, right? Whatever, I don't care anymore. Today's marker is old, so I can only just make it out. It says “In memory of William Lucas, 1887-1954, Always Remembered.” I don't like that, “Always Remembered.” It's not true, is it? The people who knew William Lucas will die, and then no one will remember him. You die and then you have a second death when everyone who knew you dies too and you are truly erased from the world. On my gravestone I want something like “Don't look, I'm standing right behind you,” something that'll freak people out. Something that'll give me a good chuckle when I'm stuck in hell. Make the most out of a dire situation, I say.
Beige Kid has started throwing paper at Long Bangs. Long Bangs sinks more in his seat, doing nothing. He doesn't even look from the window.
The bus drifts to the side of the road, as do other cars, as an ambulance speeds by. I love it when this happens. It's like the parting of the Red Sea. Not just that, though. It's one of the only times you ever see people who don't know each other actually working together. Sure, you see random acts of kindness in other countries when they have earthquakes and floods and stuff, and to not help would make you an incurable bastard, but here in England, everyone's out for themselves. Except when an ambulance or a fire engine drives by. Even if you're in a hurry, you still slow down and let them through. Everyone does. Even if you're an incurable bastard. You still do it.
I like that.
The bus pulls out again. A little too fast.
I hear the car before I see it. Deep engine. Growling like a puma.
I hear a screech of tires, and then I don't know what's happening.
My mouth stays closed as every other child lets out a variation of a petrified scream. I don't think I move. Long Bangs is suddenly sitting next to me. He's not looking at me, though. I realize everyone has crammed over to the right side of the bus. And a bus window on the left has a large crack in it.
The puma car has bumped into the bus.
I remember the jolt now.
Everything is silent.
The bus driver peers around, “Everyone all right?” I don't like his accent. It sounds more like “E'rywun awriiiight?” I don't think he really cares.
The middle-school girls start cackling again. And squawking. The boys start hitting each other, calling each other sissies for screaming and being scared.
I suddenly have the urge to stand up, take a book out of my bag and thump myself over the head just to see how everyone would react. I don't, of course.
The bus driver doesn't call for a replacement. He doesn't even check upstairs to see if people there are all right. He just drives off.
Like nothing happened.
I suddenly realize Long Bangs is still sitting next to me.
My eyes peer around, awkwardly, to double-check this. Yes, there he is.
I reckon he does the same. You know, look without moving his head. But there's no way to know for sure.
We don't say anything.
The bus moves on. “Black or White” is coming to an end. I don't remember hearing the beginning of the final chorus. My eyes take in the view and I realize where we are. My mind realigns itself with the map of the route that is permanently etched into my brain.
After a few more minutes, Long Bangs goes back to his seat.
The bus rumbles on into the mist, unhindered by its wound. I go back to thinking about random crap. I don't think about Long Bangs anymore.
Tomorrow will probably be the same.