The Darkest Bus Ride

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
A bus ride is the perfect place for long self-reflection.

Submitted: January 02, 2015

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Submitted: January 02, 2015

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The bus trudged along through the slush. Peter, tightly holding one of the grey overhead straps, leaned forward and attempted to look outside to view his progress. However, the windows were almost black with winter guck, impeding his vision and frustrating him even further. He pulled one bud of his headphones away from his ear in time to hear the cool female voice reassure him: "Next stop: Willowdale Blvd". He returned his headphones to their original position and readjusted his bag on his shoulder, knowing he still had a long way to go which would only be made inevitably longer due to the messy roads.  

He looked down in time to see the stream of melted snow mixed with TTC filth run past his foot as the bus came to a stop, moving it to avoid dirtying his polished leather shoes. The stranger standing in front of him in the overly bulky jacket, which would not look out of place in an expedition to Antarctica but was plainly unnecessary in the unseasonably warm December weather, leaned heavily into Peter as the bus jerked; an action that had consistenly occurred over the past five stops. The jacket seemed to contain the trapped aroma of an unpleasant variety of foreign foods, causing Peter to turn his head and mouth breathe as the stranger lingered on him for what seemed like a few moments too long. As the bus started off again, Peter moved his foot once more to avoid the river of run off as it reversed its course, exhaling sharply to ensure that any remaining unwanted smells were blown clear away from his nostrils. 

He could not turn, as he was boxed in by all sides. He was always victim to the strange phenemona that he noticed seemed to occur every time he took the bus in winter. The helpless mob of commuters would slowly grow larger and larger, huddled around the simple glass shelter that offered them little respite from the elements, as busses passed them packed to capacity. Finally a sympathetic driver would stop his seemingly full bus to squeeze a few desperate souls in, causing people to glower at each other or others choosing to openly rebuke people whose line etiquette was out of practice or absent entirely. Peter had eventually managed to squeeze past a middle-aged Asian woman who tried her best to pretend like he did not exist, perhaps to help internally justify her attempt to deny him his rightful place inside. All that effort just to end up in the position he was in right now.

He depressingly felt much the same about his life. It was Peter's birthday today. He was 30. He was on the bus, on his way to his mother's house to fulfull his obligation to her unexplainable tradition of inviting her own friends over to celebrate his birthday. He was unhappy with the direction his life had taken and did not know at which point it had turned to lead to where he was now. He blinked and his twenties were gone, leaving him with nothing of value, but just a few vague memories and a couple of good stories that he was tired of retelling. What was worse is that he had no idea of what steps he would take to try and find contentment through the mundanity. He longed for liberation but didn't know what that would look like or where to even begin looking for it. He felt unaccomplished. Peter had few people he could truly call "friend", and his sense of self pity was heightened by the feeling that their lives were moving on without him as well. One had just had a second child, and another had bought his first home with his new wife. One more was in a long-term, loving relationship, and the unspoken countdown had begun on social media, anticipating any sign of the ring that would bind the two of them forever. Single, somewhat by choice, trapped in a job he never wanted to be in, and no fruit of his loins to call his own, Peter felt that he had failed to become the man that he had always planned to be. 

As his disgustingly fragrant neighbour once more leaned against him, Peter reflected on how he had wanted to make a difference. In his younger years, he had wanted to be a teacher, yet he had been unwilling to do the work to make that possible. His attitude on university was that it had no benefit, but only served to disadvantage young people at the very beginning of their adult lives, forcing them into debt for a piece of paper that showed they could memorize useless information for a short duration of time. Academia and the love of learning was all well and good, but he had realized long ago that the business aspect of learning was the central premise of these institutions. As a result, Peter had finished school just so he could tell future employers that he had, doing well, but feeling as if he had learned nothing. That wasn't entirely true. He had learned, from a tersely worded letter, that he owed thousands of dollars for what some would tell you was a priceless education. With his cynical outlook on the entire practice of post-secondary learning, Peter, who had optimistically and naively wanted to help shape young minds in the classroom, soon realized that he could not stand to waste more of his years inside one trying to obtain another useless degree which told the powers-that-be that he was qualified to do so. Instead, he got an office job completely unrelated to the field for which he had spent years preparing for, daily performing repetitive tasks at a desk so that people better than he could benefit. He realized that a salary was essentially just a person buying a portion of your life, just in small eight hour increments so as to not alert you of the fact that they are doing so. This revelation had made Peter sad initially, as apparently his time wasn't very expensive. 

As the bus slowed for a few more stops, Peter felt as if no one was getting off, but somehow that more people were squeezing in. He sighed deeply and looked over the head of his artic explorer friend, his eyes landing on a beautiful young couple. She was leaning on him heavily and he looked happy to be leaned on. He held her close to him, almost protectively, saving her from some invisible danger. He himself had loved deeply once or twice maybe. Peter felt like he was used as a practice husband of sorts, as those women eventually moved on to men who they deemed more appropriate, leaving him to feel as if he could never have any lasting relationship of worth. In retrospect, Peter knew that his last girlfriend, who had eventually chosen to leave him as well, was his perfect mate, save for the fact that his skin colour and the name of his god were apparently incorrect. He wasn't going to do better, and he grew weary of hearing well intentioned individuals sympathetically look at him like a wounded animal, patting him gently to make the hurt go away with pitiful generic reassurances: "She wasn't the one for you!", or "one day you'll find the girl who you were meant to be with and you two will be happy forever!" Peter realized that people don't eventually find "the one", but rather lower their standards as they grow older and come to the understanding that the ideal person who they had preferred to give their life to probably never felt the same about them. Ever. He had lost hope in looking for the woman that, by most accounts, was supposed to provide him with some story book ending; his happily-ever-after. Instead, without really looking, he now occasionally found women who were fun time passes who he could waste small portions of life with. Looking back on them, he could only remember them for the wrong reasons, if at all. 

As the bus continued its unstoppable progress to the inevitable end of its route, Peter noticed with relief that more people were exiting than entering now. As the next stop approached, his smelly and now familiar companion pushed the bright red button on the nearby steel pole, letting everyone, specifically the driver, know that he desired to leave. The bus came to a halt, and Peter's smelly friend walked away, the scent of stale exotic food lingering for a brief second before dissipating entirely. He never said thank you. Peter thought that maybe he might've. Oh well.

A gentle vibration came from the front pocket of his pants, and he reached down to pull out a phone smarter than he was to read the message that had just popped up. "Yo im havin some ppl over. ill replace ur beer." His roommate was an idiot. They lived in an appartment that they did not own, which would have thrilled him 10 years ago, but just contributed to his feelings of unaccomplishment now. Land ownership: another of the boxes that Peter had never checked. There was no real need to. He didn't really have anything that he could fill a house with anyway. 

"Next stop: Shadlock Street." Peter peeled his headphones back just in time to hear the voice announce his stop. The bus was now almost empty, save a few exhausted stragglers who were most likely making the journey to the end of the route three stops away. He yanked the yellow lifeline and stepped out of the dirty puddle that he had accidentally allowed to accumulate around him. The bus stopped. Kicking the water off of his shoes as best as possible, he pushed the two parallel yellow bars on the back doors. Opening them after some difficulty, Peter stepped down into the dark grey snow. Turning towards his mother's house, he began to slowly walk towards the celebration of his life. 


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