The 8 o'clock bus to Serset.
I have taken this bus every day for the past year. I crowd in the line with the other commuters as the bus arrives. There is a spot with my name on it right next to the window. An unspoken reservation of sorts. You reserve that right when you take the bus as often as I do.
I watch the faces of the other commuters who load onto the bus at all its various stops. Some of them start at the same point as me, but get off at one of the various stops along the way. Some people get on later and follow the same pattern. Then there are the people that appear in unspecified patterns; one day a week, one day every two weeks, two days a week but different days, once in a blue moon, or just once.
A few of the commuters will recognize me; wave, nod, look in my direction, only a few really start conversations with me. The old lady that sits in the middle, in the blue handicap seat, always asks me how schools going. As many times as I try to explain I am not in school, she just never seems to understand. I think she might have dementia…or Alzheimer’s. Or maybe this is the only thing she really knows to talk to me about. Then there’s the guy in the front, always in a fancy suit, always talking loudly on the phone, but never forgets to try to sell me something that I always decline. He seems like a shady conman, but I never really explored further to find out.
I normally perch myself in the back, where the seats rise up above those in the middle. It's my safety net of sorts. During this two-and-a-half-hour commute, I block out the noise with music, and draw. The one true thing I love to do, but never had the gull or guts to pursue. My parents looked down on it. They wanted me to be a doctor, but I just didn’t have that in me. So instead I chose to be a biology major (something close enough to appease to them without having an intervention on job security), and decided to work in a lab that resided two and half hours away from my house. Two and a half blissful hours of something I love followed by something to earn me money.
Sometimes I draw the passengers. I practice my foundations, practice creating them in my own style. Sometimes I draw my emotions. When I am depressed or down in the dumps it becomes more cathartic than anything else. It eases the tension I feel. When my parents tell me I should toss my sketchbooks, I draw my rage. My all consuming, decrepit rage.
But, mostly, I draw my love. My love for flowers, for genuine smiles, for butterflies and moths, for plants and greenery. For nature. It is what made me the most content and creatively intrigued. Those were my safety nets. These beautifully inexplicable wonders of this world.
I don’t know when it started, but recently my eyes have been drawn to him. I can not recall when he started to appear on this bus, I honestly don’t think I ever noticed him before...well, this. Even now when I think back I can only truly recall one moment. Around two months ago, this bus was hijacked. When you say hijacked most people think of airlines, but I assure you busses can be hijacked too. Three men hijacked this bus in an attempt to gain something publicly. They posted it live on social media for people to watch. I remember being terrified, but I also remember the hijackers being equally terrified staring at the back of the bus, staring in my direction, seeing something unseen. Looking back, I guess the police were right when they speculated they were on drugs at the time. Each of them doped up on something, some new drug they said, causing them to hallucinate. Ironically, that same drug ended up being investigated by my lab, but that’s another story for another time.
Our bus ended up toppling to the side. The terrorist were trying to escape the cops, screaming nonsense about the back window. I remember looking back, but nothing was there. Then there was a sharp turn followed by a hard thud to the seat on the opposite side. I escaped with only a few bruises, a massive purple shiner on my side from hitting the railing of the seat, but other than that no true emergency. In fact, everyone in the bus was okay with the exception of two of the three terrorist. One of them smashed through the window and gained a massive hemorrhage in the brain that they never came out of, and the second ended up taking his own life. The third was left unconscious, only to be woken inside of the backseat of the cop car.
It was only when we were all being accounted for that I noticed the new commuter. He was beautiful though he covered himself mostly. Wore a hood over his head, kept his hands in his pockets, head down. I pegged him as a lone wolf. The weeks after, my eyes always searched for him. He always sat two seats in front of me on the opposite side. At some point I started drawing him. His sharp, yet soft edges that glowed as the rising sun peaked up over the bay. The way his dimples become visible when he is focusing on something so hard a furrow appears stitched between his brows. That far off gaze as he searches for answers out the window for questions I cant hear.
If I'm honest, my sketchbook is full of him. I had pages of side profile. The only profile I got a glimpse of from my perch. I started drawing what I remembered of his face. I didn’t get to see it all that much, so I relied heavily on my memory. My memory wasn’t all that reliable. His face was always dark and blurry in my memory, the only feature that stared at me prominently was his eyes. His eyes that reminded me of fall and werewolves and warmth and all the wonderful things. An orangish brown that was so bright in my memories. When did I see these eyes?
I started to get obsessive, and I hate to admit that. He intrigued me. Something about him was mysterious, but beautiful. The more I watched him, the more I fell in love. His movements were always graceful. Nobody ever seemed to pay attention to him. Every once in a while the old lady would drop a book or her fruit, and he would pick it up for her, but she never seemed to notice. It might sound weird, but I was oddly satisfied with that. On this bus, he was my own little secret.
I talked to my coworker about him. This whole love thing that was going on…yeah…I didn’t know about it. I didn’t know what to do. I have never felt so strongly about somebody before. In the past years, I vocalized my content being the crazy cat lady. Why need a husband to ignore you when you can have around forty cats that ignore you instead?
My coworker did not follow my logical genius.
A couple of times we went out for drinks, and in her drunken stupor she would speak to me about the “red-string of fate”. This idea that we were fated for each other. She brought up some good points. We take the same bus everyday, we both experienced that traumatic event, I’m the only one that seems to notice him. She chalked it up to fate. Being someone with more love experience than myself, I believed her. She told me I needed to talk to him. She told me it was perfect. Just sit next to him. Talk to him. Simple…right?
I tried for a month. Not simple. Terrifying. Every time I tried, my heart would race, I felt like I would pass out, I would start panting like a dog (real attractive), then my palms would get sweaty, almost sticky, like if I rubbed it against my jeans it might latch on and stretch like goop. And OH the stress sweat! Don’t get me started on the beauty of stress sweat.
Finally, one day I just told myself, if I don’t do it today, I would regret it for the rest of my life. Besides, what’s the worst that could happen? Rejection? No…probably humiliation. Definitely, humiliation. I would probably have to take another bus…
No! Don’t think about it. Just do it. In the words of Shia LaBeouf. “Just do it!”
And I did. My awkward self and all. I almost tripped into the seat. I saw him look over at me from the corner of his eye, but then kept staring straight. I rubbed my sweaty palms on my jeans. Ugh, I could just imagine globs of green goop dripping. I tried to shake the thought, then noticed the stress sweat. OH GOD. Its now or never.
“UHM…” my voice cracked. God, this is embarrassing. Who would ever think that liking somebody could be so awkward, so humiliating. I took a deep breath, and in the gesture ended up hitting my head on the bar above the seat, “Owww…”
I don’t think my face could have gotten any redder. What’s the reddest thing you can think of? Wait…don’t answer that.
Finally, feeling defeated. I buried my head in my hands, peeking out the side, and asked him, “Do you take this bus often?”
After the words escaped my mouth, internally I started screaming. DO YOU TAKE THIS BUS OFTEN???? IDIOT! OBVIOUSLY HE DOES! Siiiiiiiiiiiiiigh. What’s the chances. Statistically speaking, and I was not good at statistics, I would say 1%, give or take 1%.
Mrs. Annabelle looked over from her perch in the handicap seat, “What did you say, dear?”
I smiled at her feeling ridiculous, “Nothing, Mrs. Annabelle.”
I looked over at the guy. He stared at me wide eyed. I was taken aback. I mean, obviously I said something stupid, but he was looking at me like I was an alien.
If it was possible to blush harder…it happened. I stumbled on my words before finally saying, “I was just trying to start a friendly conversation…but, uh, don’t mind me.”
He shook his head at me before his expression darkened, “You shouldn’t be able to see me.”
Was this some new age way of rejecting someone? Like a new form of ghosting, but in person? I mean, I know I am kind of a head in my sketchbook girl, but I didn’t think I was this out of my generation.
I laughed awkwardly, then quickly shot up, and walked back to my seat. He got off at the next stop, which wasn’t usual, but I added it up to feeling thoroughly weirded out by this odd girl who made a commotion and still couldn’t figure out what to say.
The next couple of days I thought about finding a new bus, but the only available bus lines had an hour detour. I didn’t think I could allow myself to let this get in the way of my routine. Nonetheless my sleep. So I sat in the back and tried to be as invisible as I could muster. Yet, he started to stare at me. Watching me. I felt all nervousness and anxiety. Epicness and awesome. He never noticed me before, but then again how could you not? I did just make a big fool of myself.
On the third day he sat next to me.
Oh, how the tables turn.
“You can really see me,” he said looking at me wearily.
Confused. I did that head tilt dogs tend to do, “Eh?”
Not what I was expecting. I mean, are you seriously going to keep up this act? He didn’t need to. It only made me feel worse.
I sighed, “You know, I just wanted to get to know you. You don’t have to pretend.”
He furrowed his brows at me, and subconsciously I mimicked him. A bad habit I had. Whenever I studied facial expressions I tended to make the facial expression myself to try and feel it as I drew it. Let’s just say, that tended to happen whenever someone made expressions at me.
“Look,” he said. He brought up a hand and waved at me.
I stared at him. Super...confused. I mean, hand wave means hi, right? Not sure what that meant in his country. Oh! Was this one of those things where you do it back as a gesture of consideration or respect? I lifted my hand, and waved back.
He sighed, drooping his shoulders, and rolling his eyes at me. He lifted his eyebrows and put up his hand once again. I reacted at his expression like an infant and shot the same expression back then slammed a hand in my face. When will I learn to break this habit?
He took his pointer finger and tapped it in the air and suddenly electricity broke out against the air like lightening. A rainbow of electricity that spread across the space like neurons.
“Magician!” I yelled out excited at this spectacle of a show. Then giddily I put both of my hands over my mouth and wiggled in exuberance.
Everyone on the bus looked back at me, disturbed. I shrugged a coy, “sorry”. Then, I looked at them. Really looked at them. Searching for expressions of bewilderment that might have echoed my enthusiasm. Did nobody see that? I mean, it was beautiful and intriguing, and it took up half the bus.
I whispered as to not disturb the other passengers, “How did you do that? I know most magicians never reveal their secrets, but I’m a thorough believer in Chemistry, you can tell me. I can find ways to make it more spectacular, and you can show more people.”
He smiled one of those you don’t understand smiles.
“It’s not magic. We’re not from the same dimension.”