Out the Door
I was swimming in unreality. A seascape of sound that was so pervasive it created a new reality that my eyes could pick up on. One of colours and shapes. The clock flashed again inching closer to the time for which I had to catch the bus. I was drawn to the face of the clock like a moth. It attracted me, pulled me along like a tractor beam. It meant everything to me and somehow became increasingly more important as the song faded into some other.
Suddenly I wasn’t taking on water, I wasn’t drowning in a sea of strangeness. I wasn’t in the office anymore, but I hadn’t left work either. A cinderblock of urgency splashed huge waves through my guts. I had to go. I had to go now. The red numbers over head flashed petulantly and sagged down on me with an oppressive weight. I had to catch the bus or I’d never make it to the party. In the small city where I live the busses stop running regularly by ten o’clock and then it’s a struggle to get cab. A city that behaves like the worst small town. Homelessness everywhere, strange vagrants wander the downtown alleys. And everything closes early. I loved it there anyway. The parks were large, lush, and full. The old colonial homes and buildings were abundant and beautiful. There was culture everywhere, but it could be very difficult to get around.
I began my journey to the party from work at just slightly less than a frantic pace toward my stop. It was a lot farther than I thought and I had to jog part of the way. Like the hallway at work, the street seemed to be telescoping outward, pushing the bus stop further away. The closer I got, the further I was. Then I was there. A blip like an invisible wormhole had opened up and I’d stepped through without even realizing it. Space, what a concept. So immense and yet distance means nothing to a particle. Especially if it’s entangled. That is all we are, particles in a vast universe. We are always so entangled. I just didn’t realize it at the time.
I panicked in the darkness because I knew I was running out of time. “Did the wind sweep you off your feet?” Suddenly all the street lights began to dim, flicker, and go out. Then, as if there was a dimmer switch for city lights, they flared up to a dull lambency that had discreet ambience of horror. They never got any brighter. I had the fleeting thought that things really do diminish quickly.
When I’d met him it was like a hydrogen bomb going off. The radiation flowing off of us was enough to strip the skin off of everyone in the city and the neighbouring townships. There were times that we were so enrapt with one another we forgot to eat. I fainted in the bathtub.
A bus appeared out of gloom heading directly toward me. I pushed myself harder, pumping my legs in order to get there before it passed by. It was the strangest thing because, I was at the stop and yet here I was wheezing with the effort of getting there. “Did the wind sweep you off your feet?” Finally I really had made it there, at the exact same time as the bus. It approached slowly, almost cautiously, a wild animal sniffing around an unfamiliar place where predators could be lurking. The bus squealed to a halt. The LCD above the window that indicates the route was dark. So was the interior of the bus so I couldn’t see if there was anyone sitting. In my minds eye, its approach out of the gloom replayed giving it the aura of a ghost bus splitting the fog that separates our world from the next. I could barely make out the driver through the front windscreen in the strangely low lighting. I had no idea if this was the right bus or not. I didn’t think there were any other buses that passed this way and in my panicked state I hadn’t paid any attention to the time.
Space does that to us as well. It draws all of our attention away from time. The doors slowly opened, groaning and creaking as they did. I glanced around at the bus’s murky interior and looked up only to notice where it should have said the route number above the door was no longer blank, but read, “Out of Service.” Oddly enough the bus had stopped regardless, and the doors were open. A tiny click jostled the silence igniting a soft ambient glow in the bus’s interior. I got on and swiped my card staring at the middle-aged woman driver who only gave a slight, vague nod, but said no words. Her mouth was closed tight in a thin white line as if it were glued shut. I didn’t even think to ask the driver where the bus was headed or if it was the right one for me. I walked along the aisle of a bus that was completely empty but ferrying the weight of loneliness. Sitting near the middle and scanning the carapace, the space of the bus was immense without any other passengers.
We used to ride the bus together. Almost everywhere we went, we’d cuddle up next to one another and either play scrabble on our phones against one another, watch the city speed by out the window, or watch the other passengers if they were interesting to look at (they almost always were). I liked the ones with the carts full of plastic bags and random bric-a-brac. They always wanted to chat with anyone who’d listen and would tell such horribly grandiose and sad stories about how they had been treated and by their families or bosses. It was fun to watch the faces of the commuters who’d get trapped. Usually smug or sometimes pity would bend the sides of their face toward the floor, but usually they’d roll their eyes and desperately look for someone to make eye contact with to communicate the annoyance and misery of being trapped in a conversation they didn’t anticipate having or couldn’t participate in. Once, this lady who had all the bags and no cart went on and on about the Canadian wrestler who committed suicide. She brought it up to anyone and everyone ignorant enough to sit close. She was frantic with feeling for a guy she’d never met and seemed completely oblivious to her own situation. We didn’t even always have a destination, we’d just get on a bus and ride.
As the bus cruised the slick streets - I don’t remember rain and yet the streets seemed slick with wet - it was a dead night outside. Not a soul in sight. It was as if the city itself had vacated the space. Everyone had gone home like at the end of a party, floor wet from all the spills, but everyone has either left or gone to bed. None of the street lights were on. Even the traffic lights in the intersections seemed to have stopped changing. Red as dragon eyes, each and every one and the bus sped through them. Because all the light seemed to have been extinguished for the night, the city empty and completely dark, I had nothing but my ghastly reflection in the bus windows to stare at. I was far too pale. It was summer and I hadn’t gotten out enough to get even the slightest shade darker. What had I been doing with my life? Put on a shelf, is how it felt, at a distance from everything. Damn space.
The bus began a long and winding path into an unseen abyss in eerie silence. Even the engine chugged along unheard. I’d mention how disconcerting this was, but I think you get the point already. Not a single thing about this night was normal. Not that there is a normalcy to life. There are so many twists and turns, triumphs and mistakes. Missed opportunities and opportunities never presented. Well, let me tell you, they are always presented in some form or fashion. it just really takes a trained eye to spot them. Missed opportunities acknowledged or not are almost always presented first. We just don’t always know it, and so we don’t know what we are missing. Especially long after it's gone.