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The Bus Stop
The Bus Stop
Him: I woke up that morning feeling no different than usual. I stretched my arms, yawned, and looked around my room. It didn’t look any different: the curtains were drawn, clothing was strewn across the floor and there was a stack of books on the desk by the window. I heard birds singing outside and sighed with contentment. I had just graduated days before, but nothing had changed. I still woke up, dressed, ate breakfast and brushed my teeth. I wouldn’t be leaving the city, and I wasn’t eager to. This city was all I’d ever known, and it was all I wanted too. I never got tired of the burgers at the local diner, and I didn’t mind the potholes in the streets. I secretly liked the frequent rainstorms, and it didn’t matter to me that the mall was tiny. This place was home. Graduation and the fact that almost everyone I knew was leaving couldn’t take that away from me. Nothing was going to change.
Her: I left early that morning, my stomach turning in on itself as my heart thumped with anticipation. I pulled out of my driveway and headed down the road. My hands gripped the wheel tight. I couldn’t believe that I was finally leaving: I was finally getting out of this place and making something of myself. Life was beginning: in approximately twenty minutes I would be gone, free to go anywhere I wanted.
It wasn’t until I passed by his house that I started to feel sick. My stomach did a cartwheel and I slowed down drastically before coming to a stop in the middle of the road. His windows were drawn, and I couldn’t help but feel guilty. He knew I wasn’t sticking around, but he definitely wasn’t expecting me to make a run for it only two days after graduation. We were best friends. Best friends were supposed to say goodbye.
I pushed the thought out of my mind and drove away, leaving all thoughts of him and everyone else behind me.
Him: She wasn’t answering her phone.
Her: He was calling me: I could hear my phone ringing inside my purse.
Him: She’s gone.
Her: I’m gone.
Six Years Later
There are two people at the bus stop today. It’s humid, and steam rises from the dark pavement of the street as raindrops splatter against the sidewalk. Cars pass by the bus stop, splashing through the puddles left over from this morning’s rain. Thick clouds hide the sun.
The first person is a young man of about twenty-three. He’s tall and thin, with long arms and legs. His back is hunched and he wears a black raincoat, blue jeans and unlaced, mud-stained sneakers. His eyes are pale blue, with the innocence of a child. He watches the girl, his face forlorn. He’s lived in this city his whole life, but he feels lost.
The girl is wearing a pink raincoat, dark jeans and rain boots that look no more than a day old. She looks about the same age. Her blonde hair is twisted up on her head and her fingers fly across the keyboard of her cell phone, which she clutches tightly in her hands. Her eyes are also blue, but darker: almost purple, and bright. There’s an air of dismissal about her, as if this city she’s known for years is too small for her and will never fit just right again. Thunder booms overhead and the raindrops multiply quickly.
“Sure is coming down, isn’t it?” The man says abruptly, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. He clasps his hands together and takes a step back as the girl raises her head. They make eye contact for a moment.
The girl doesn’t answer. She simply narrows her eyes and returns to the screen of her phone, endlessly unimpressed and uninterested. But still, something has been thrown off balance. Suddenly, she’s not so immaculate. She, too, is lost.
The man sits down on the curb and stares down the road, waiting for the bus. He isn’t more than a child. The last time he saw her was the day after graduation. The girl raises her head and looks at him. Sadness overwhelms her as she recalls the day she left: the day she packed her things in her shiny new car and drove away.
She didn’t even say goodbye.
The girl looks down at her new rain boots and wishes that she had said goodbye. She wishes she had returned the emails and came back to visit and maybe if she did that she wouldn’t feel like a stranger in the town she used to love. Six years ago, these streets were huge. The streetlights were majestic. This man before her was just a boy.
The boy stares down the street. He wonders how it is that he had a friend one day and woke up alone the next. He remembers the day she left: the day he woke up feeling like something, or maybe everything, had changed.
“Why did you leave?” He asked flatly, his quiet voice masking millions of emotions.
The girl turns to look at him. Her eyes were piercing. “I couldn’t stay here any more.”
“That’s not true,” The boy says bluntly. “You just think you’re better than all of us.”
For a brief moment, she remembers. She remembers the melting popsicles on hot summer days, the animated movies after daycare, the junior high science projects and the day they both graduated. She met his eyes when he went on stage, giving him a thumbs-up and a smile. He smiled back. “This is when life begins,” They said later. She even remembers the Best Friend stickers on their grade-three math binders.
“Maybe I just didn’t want to stay in this stupid city forever,” She challenges.
He shakes his head. “What did we- this city- ever do to you?”
“Nothing,” She replies, and that’s the truth. “Nothing.”
There’s a silence. Finally, the boy speaks. “Where are you now?”
“Canada,” She replies. “But I may go somewhere new.”
“I heard it’s cold there,” The boy replies. The girl’s lips turn up in a small smile.
“I guess it is.” She turns away, her heart pounding. She can’t stay here. Just the thought of it is ridiculous. She left to get away, so why did she come back? Why is she even here?
The boy asks the same question. “Why are you here?”
“I don’t know.” She tucks her phone into her purse and crosses her arms over her chest, squinting her eyes against the rain. This stupid city, she thinks. I just can’t seem to get away from it.
The boy continues to stare down the street. He’s walked this sidewalk a thousand times, sat on this curb a thousand times and read these street signs a thousand times. It’s familiar, like an old pair of jeans that fit just right. He’s never wanted anything else. She’s different that way. She always wanted something else; he always knew that. She always talked about leaving. She used to have a journal, a journal in which she planned for the future in. He knew about that. He knew she wasn’t sticking around.
He just always thought she would say goodbye.
The rain lets up a bit. The girl sighs quietly and hums a tune under her breath. She doesn’t remember the bus being this late. Or maybe it just never used to bother her. Now, she feels impatient and irritated. This is ridiculous. She makes eye contact with the boy on the curb. They just stare at each other, each one wanting to say a hundred things to one another.
I just don’t understand why you left.
I should’ve said goodbye.
Are we friends anymore?
Maybe if I said goodbye it wouldn’t be like this.
Do you miss it?
I wish I could make this the same again.
Do you miss anything?
Can we just be friends again?
Do you miss me?
I just wish I said goodbye.
Can things be normal again, just for a minute?
I hate myself for missing this place.
I just wish you had said goodbye.
I just wish I had said goodbye.
No one speaks.
“I sent you a Christmas card last year,” He says softly.
“Well, my mom did.”
There’s a silence. The girl feels horrible. She stays calm, cool and collected, her face drawn. “Oh. I guess… I just never got it.”
“Oh.” He smiles sadly and turns away again. The seat of his jeans is soaked, but he doesn’t seem to care. Deep down, he is just happy to be here: sitting on a curb in the rain with his best friend.
“So what are you up to lately?” She asks tentatively, holding her purse close to her side. Suddenly, she doesn’t look so confident. She’s almost the same girl he met nineteen years ago in preschool. She was tiny back then, with blond pigtails and pink overalls.
The boy looks up at her. He’s embarrassed. “Um… still in school. I’m working at that diner downtown, too. Part-time.”
Six years ago she’d have known what ‘that diner’ was. But she can’t remember. Her cheeks turn slightly pink. “Right.” She clears her throat and looks away. “Good for you.”
The boy shrugs.
Just say it.
Just say it.
Shockingly, she says it first, “Well… I miss you.”
The boy doesn’t hesitate. “I miss you too.”
She can’t stop herself now. “I have friends…. at home… but they aren’t as great as you.” She holds her breath, waiting for his response.
He smiles. This time it isn’t so melancholy. “Uh… thanks.” Both of them laugh nervously.
“And…” She shook her head. “I’m just… sorry. I’m so sorry.”
“Sorry for leaving?” The boy asked.
“No, I’m sorry for not saying goodbye,” She replies. “And not coming back for the holidays, or answering your calls…”
“Hey.” The boy shrugged and smiled lopsidedly. “It’s okay. I’ve been pretty busy…”
“Oh. That’s good…”
There’s another silence. There’s the sound of wheels on pavement and the bus rounds the corner. The boy stands. The girl’s hands drop to her side with relief.
There are only two seats available on the bus, and they’re side-by-side. The boy and the girl hesitate before sitting down together.
They don’t talk for the whole bus ride. Three stops later, the girl stands. The boy’s stomach clenches.
“Well, this is where I get off,” She says briskly, in a professional tone. She hitches her purse up higher on her shoulder. “It was nice talking to you.”
The boy bobs his head, not meeting her eyes. He isn’t ready for her to leave again. “Cool. You too.”
She doesn’t move. “I’m here for three days,” She said. “So I’ll see you around, okay?”
He smiles with a rare, simple joy. “Okay. I’ll see you around.”
She smiles, too. Her face relaxes and she looks almost like the girl he saw when they were thirteen years old. His best friend. “Well… just in case… Goodbye.”
“Goodbye,” He replies. Suddenly, they’re both on the verge of either crying or laughing. She waves to him and then hurries to the door and climbs down the steps, disappearing down the sidewalk. In seconds, she’s out of sight. The bus starts down the street again, heading to its next destination.