The bus driver did not look at me when I entered the bus. I spared him a glance as he sped away from the bus stop and grabbed a red pole to steady myself before I flopped into my seat.
“Sorry,” I apologized to the man on the window seat when I regained my balance and saw what my lipstick had done to his sleeve.
He shrugged and smiled.
Whenever we approached a bus stop, we lurched forward as the driver braked and we fell backwards as he accelerated again. No one got on the bus.
At the intersection between Park and Jacob Street, a grey Toyota on the opposite lane, anxious to beat the red light, navigated a left turn. But it was caught in the middle of the road, in the path of our angry bus. The bus driver brought the bus within scratching distance of the Toyota. The Toyota driver inched further left. The bus growled and heaved. I felt the faltering bravery of the Toyota driver. Chatter climbed a few decibels.
Vroom, vroom, vroom! The bus driver’s impatience bellowed from the engine.
“Go! Go! Go!” the passengers cheered and clapped, with necks extended.
The lights turned green and the Toyota rolled into Jacob Street just as the bus charged forward. I fell back in my seat and began to breathe again.
Five hundred metres before my stop, I pressed the button. The buzz pierced the chatter and the display flashed, STOP, in the monitor overhead. Moments later, I stood and held a red pole to brace myself, but the driver rode past the bus stop.
The passenger sitting beside me called out, “Chauffeur!” More passengers called, “Chauffeur!” and then chanted, “Chauffeur! Chauffeur! Chauffeur!” stamping their feet to match the two syllables in the word.
Eventually the driver swerved towards the kerb. Passengers rose and shambled to the door like zombies. The driver lowered the belly of the bus and the door puffed before opening. Twilight had bowed to a moonless night and we were in the middle of nowhere.
“The world is full of crazy people. Get out while you can,” called the driver.
My feet developed roots and I watched all the passengers except the man I sat beside, file out of the bus. They wore pale blue tops and trousers. He nudged me and we got off together.
The passengers in pale blue led the way. Their voices floated and filled the night. In the absence of buildings and street lamps, the tree branches were monsters looking on. Reprieve from the darkness came from a dim signpost where the passengers melted into the shadows.I read the sign, National Psychiatric Hospital, and we quickened our pace. His presence by my side, kept me from running. The next bus stop was still ahead.
The bus stop, a pole with a twisted metal sign, offered no protection from the night. I checked my phone. The battery was dead.
“Mine too,” he shrugged.
Darkness stretched time like fitted sheets that are too small. I stifled the urge to pee. The wind whistled through the leaves.
“Did you hear?”
“What?” I replied.
“I thought I heard my name,” he turned in a semi-circle.
“Me t . . . t . . . too.”
We huddled closer. Then he started singing, “Love is like two dreamers dreamin the exact same dream . . .”
“Nightmoves, Michael Franks,” I mumbled.
“Marry me,” he whispered.
The leaves answered the wind, “Whooosh!” and fell to the ground. But the wind whistled back in hot pursuit gathering leaves in its arms and spinning them round and round. Some leaves broke free and circled our feet. Something in the pit of my stomach churned.
“The music begins and the titles fade in, starrin’ you and me. The hero is struggling to say that his lady is far away in her prison of wishes . . . ,” he continued singing.
Headlights appeared in the distance. I moved as far out to the edge of the road as I dared and waved.
“Marry me!” his voice was urgent.
The thing in my stomach grew. My chest rose and threatened to pop the buttons of my blouse. I darted to the middle of the road and waved my hands with all my might.
Two yellow eyes flashed twice, cutting through the darkness. The sound of the engine grew louder. I ran to the side just as the bus screeched to a stop, lowered her belly, and the doors swung open. I clambered in and willed the driver to read my eyes.
“Close the door!” I screamed.
“Aha, the world is full of crazy people, get in while you can,” he smiled and sped away.
I turned and watched the passenger singing and dancing as his pale blue form retreated into the darkness, then flopped into my seat. I closed my eyes and opened them when I started breathing through my nose again, grateful for street lamps. By now, the bus was ambling over the cobblestones of the deserted shopping district. I saw our reflection on the floor-to-ceiling windows and squinted to read the inscription on the side of the bus, Bus 281: Property of The National Psychiatric Hospital.
“Honey, just marry the idiot already. One of these days he’s gonna tire of the game and find someone else,” the bus driver caught my eye in the rearview mirror and winked.
I looked at his shirt, pale blue. I looked down at my blouse, pale blue. I fainted.
©Timi Yeseibo 2014
Michael Franks, Nightmoves, from the album, The Art of Tea.
Image credit: illustrations from Microsoft
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