The Bus Ride
Chapter 16: The Bus Ride
I woke up on my bed fully clothed and with my shoes on. The music from my iTunes was playing and Joe’s bed was made which I found strange because he always left the sheets crumpled. “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan was playing and my eyes had opened to “in the arms of the angel”.
Sarah’s melodic voice rang through my ears as I rubbed my eyes, got up, and paused the song. Once I was sitting on the bed with my shoes off, I noticed the poorly drawn thumbs up sign at my footboard. It looked like one of those like symbols on Facebook but what concerned me was how it had gotten there. Had someone actually entered my room and drawn it there or had it happened before I had even had arrived in my room that night? Maybe every single one of my moves was being calculated before I had even thought of it. My brain just hurt just thinking about it.
I decided to not focus on Alice’s little game (if it was her game. Maybe I really was crazy) and instead changed out of yesterday’s clothes and showered. Once I was showered, shaved (yes, finally hairs had grown on my face. It felt good to feel the smoothness of my skin), and changed into new clothes (including new pants. Purple. I know. Daring), I glanced at my Toy Story watch and noticed it was bordering nine-thirty. With just hot cereal for breakfast and a glass of chocolate milk, I decided to wander the city. Yesterday was still in my head and I wondered if this was how I was going to see the world now: in artistic symbols. Even the fucking traffic lights meant something. And red didn’t mean stop.
I wandered into The Bohemian Café and Catering Corporation and sat down to another breakfast. I ordered the heuvos rancheros and a tall glass of chocolate milk and began to eat as soon as the steaming food arrived. When I was done, I wiped my face on my napkin and left the restaurant after paying.
Back on the street, I had no idea what I was doing. There was a red car parked on each side of the road but I had no idea what that meant. It didn’t really matter. I was used to it.
I walked down Bernard Avenue until I ended up at the Safeway. Again, I had no idea what I was doing. It was almost as if I had been attracted to red. There had been a red Toyota sitting outside of the Bohemian and now I had the red Safeway symbol. I almost walked into the Safeway and told the first staff member, “Hi, I don’t know why I’m here”, but I didn’t. Instead, I saw a spilled Starbucks coffee cup just in the entrance. Pink lipstick was smeared on the lip hole of the cup and I could see a large A was visible. The black marker writing seemed to be mocking me.
Alice, Alice, Alice.
“Sir, are you all right?”
I opened my eyes and noticed that I was standing in front of the Starbucks counter. “No, I’m fine,” I said quickly and headed into the superstore.
I found a shopping list on the ground, picked it up, and read it:
apple cinnamon hot cereal
I stared at the list. But instead of just chucking it, I followed it. I bought the items and once I had paid for them, I knew that what I had done was right. Maybe it was Alice, me, or some convenient coincidence, but I knew that I was eating too much in the cafeteria. I wasn’t exactly getting fat, but I knew I could be eating better. And so I had basically purchased the tools to cook my own meals in the lounge rather than mooching off some crappy cafeteria food. Honestly, it really wasn’t that good and I knew I was spending more money by eating out all the time. Fucking meal plans do that to you.
Sure, maybe I had just bought the essentials for possibly a week and only for breakfasts, but I planned to possibly buy more food from Safeway and soon stop eating out all together. It was quite fucking lonely, especially since I mostly ate alone.
When I was back in Abbot, I walked into the lounge and put the carton of eggs and chocolate milk in the fridge. I placed the box of hot cereal on the top of the fridge and the small egg pan in the drawer close to the sink. It was the cleanest drawer I could find even if there were a few dried pasta noodles stuck on the bottom of the drawer with a dried smear of tomato sauce. I knew I would have to wash the pan every time I removed it from the drawer.
Once I was back in my room, I sat down at my computer and rested my hands behind my head feeling very pleased with myself.
I glanced at my watch and noticed that it was ten-thirty and knew I was missing Creative Writing. Even though I was late, I decided to still go so quickly gathered my Creative Writing binder, stuffed it in my burgundy backpack, and quickly ran to Lerner.
All heads turned towards me as I tried to creep into the classroom. Even Rich looked up from his podium. He was wearing a burgundy jacket and smiled up at me. I couldn’t help but think his jacket was planned as if someone (Alice?) knew about my burgundy backpack and so his jacket was deliberately supposed to match it. I knew I would silently investigate this as I sat down in the corner seat closest to the door. It just so happened I was sitting beside Rachel who didn’t seem to be pleased with the interruption.
“Welcome, Art,” said Rich as I sat down. But his greeting didn’t sound at all mocking. It was as if they had all been expecting me. “I was just telling the class how life could imitate art. If you look at an empty chair such as the one that was vacant a few moments ago, to you it may be just an empty chair. But there’s a story to that chair. And this particular story is that the chair would soon be occupied. As writers, we are constantly hunting for art in our everyday life whether it’s an empty chair or something grander like a sunset. We are constantly seeking for beauty. But we don’t just want to see it and snap it like a photographer; we want to capture that beauty with our words. We want to describe it so everyone who reads our work can experience the same beauty we witnessed or maybe something even grander than what we experienced.”
I nodded as people furiously took notes. I just raised my hand. “What about art imitating life?”
Rich smiled as if he had been expecting the question from me. “Yes, art can imitate life too.”
“Like say a red car is a symbol for a love situation. You know, the driver’s side is driving love, the passenger seat is riding along with love, and the trunk is going through the backdoor of love.”
Many people began laughing and I smiled sheepishly, feeling like an idiot. Rachel just gave me a look that basically said, what are you on?
“That’s almost a conceit, Art, but within a symbol. Do you know what a conceit is?” I shook my head. “A conceit is an extended metaphor. It’s mostly seen in poetry and if you wrote a poem about a car and how it’s a symbol of love, it would be considered a conceit because you have one poem representing one thing: the car is the thing but the thing represents love. Get it?”
“Yeah,” I agreed.
I had given that example to Rich to see how he would react, but he just seemed interested in the idea and didn’t seem to be hinting that I was unraveling some secret. Maybe the burgundy jacket was a coincidence.
“But yes, art can imitate life. That car could actually literally be your symbol of love and could very much express your situation. And to really go crazy, you could actually have the love interest be the driver of love, the passenger be the ride along, but also have someone in the trunk who actually is trying to go through the backdoor of love. The greatness of art is you can run away with it as long as it makes sense or at least enough sense for a reader to understand and not get confused or lost by it.”
I nodded. So the red car was a conceit.
The red car wasn’t just a conceit, my entire artistic experience was a conceit: a conceit for love. All these fucking symbols were giving me the same message: love. But not just love in general, love for one girl: Alice Sterling. I knew it, and from Creative Writing I had learned that all of this was an artistic experiment. Art’s Experiment. Quite clever actually. But I wanted to see how in control I was. Was Alice guiding me or was I guiding myself? Maybe she was just pushing me along. I still though wasn’t sure if it was Alice that was behind this. It’s a lot to do for one girl. She would’ve needed help and that would’ve required so many friends and from Joe and my own knowledge, Alice didn’t really have any friends. Maybe some other girl was interested in me and was just using Alice to lead me down the wrong direction so I didn’t figure it out so quickly. There hadn’t been any blaring indication of Alice except for that experience in the cafeteria, which was quite miniscule if you think about it.
But even if someone was experimenting with me, I wanted to do my own little experiment. What would happen if I went somewhere completely out of the ordinary? Would this artistic journey be following me or would everything come to a halt because they hadn’t been prepared for my sudden alteration of course?
After my lunch in the cafeteria, I headed for the bus stop and waited at the ninety-seven marking. The ninety-seven was the bus that would take me to U.B.C.O. and I knew that no one would expect me to head to a different university. What need did I have? But I never ended up going to U.B.C.O., because I ended up in Peachland.
I didn’t even look at where we were going. I didn’t even find it surprising that there was no one else on the bus with me. But when the bus driver stopped and commanded, “Everybody off!”, I was shocked. Because the moment I got off this mode of public transportation, I was confused to discover the Peachland Museum in front of me. But before I could tell the bus driver that I had gotten off at the wrong stop, the bus did an illegal U-turn and was soon heading down the Okanagan Highway back to Kelowna.
Before the bus left, I was able to observe the number: twenty-two. Twenty-two?! I could’ve sworn that I had gotten on the ninety-seven. I remember seeing the number clearly on the top of the bus. But it didn’t matter. Either I had made a mistake or this had been planned and I was leaning closer to “planned” than “accident”. But all love is an accident and I had just crashed.