He leaned on a billboard at the bus stop, checking the arrival/departure schedules for the next bus. Working at the outskirts of the city had its perks but also some disadvantages, like when it came to public transportation. He pulled out his phone and checked the time; eight more minutes until it arrived. He changed his position and sat himself down on one of the benches, his backpack digging into his back, but he couldn’t bother removing it. Tipping his head back, he leaned against the glass separating the bus stop and the street and straightened out his legs, the action easing any lingering tension.
He let another trail of smoke rise up and out of his lungs, thinking about his assignment. There wasn’t much time left before the deadline and he still had a bunch of literature to read. He was too focused on his latest ideas for his final exhibition, which resulted in him neglecting his lecture “duties”. He couldn’t help but bury himself in his work, inspiration blindly guiding him, and he didn’t feel too bad neglecting that one specific lecture. A shiver crawled down his spine just thinking about it.
Cigarette dangling between his lips, Naosuke fumbled with his backpack and took his headphones out. He searched for his phone, carefully hidden in his coat, and plugged them in. Soon enough, he found his favourite playlist and selected it, the songs playing randomly. The soft sound of chet baker’s trumpet resonating in his ears was enough to lull him even just the slightest. Looking at the grey sky and savouring his cigarette, the student watched the smoke around him while moving his feet to the rhythm of “there’s a small hotel”.
As the following song was starting, the bus finally arrived and its doors opened, but Naosuke didn't make an effort to get up, still engrossed in the music. The bus driver stuck his head out and whistled.
“Oi, Naosuke, I assume you wanna take this bus, since this is my last tour of the day, and you don’t wanna make this walk in that damned cold? Or do you wanna drive with Sato, eh?”
Naosuke smiled lazily and got up. No way in history would he drive with Sato again. He would rather forget the last time he did so; just the thought made him shudder. He wouldn’t ever drive with that snake another time. It had its advantages, working at the outskirts of the city; he knew at least half the bus drivers by name, and this was also the first station for this line and not a lot of people used the bus at this time of day there.
After taking a last drag of his cigarette, Naosuke disposed it on the ashtray and got on the bus of his favourite driver.
“Where you heading to?”
“Library,” Naosuke mumbled and chose the seat at the entrance door, that way he still could talk to Haruaki.
“Son, don’t overwork yourself, you don’t get any younger,” Haruaki chided him. Naosuke smiled at the endearment.
“Well, it’s my last two semesters and I have that upcoming exhibition," Naosuke leaned forward and propped himself on the handrails, pulling down his headphones. “You coming?”
“Sure, my wife is excited to meet you,” a deep, sonorous laugh vibrated in Naosuke’s ears.
Stopping at a red light, Haruaki turned around to look at the student’s direction and noticed his worn out state. It wasn’t uncommon but he did sound more exhausted than usual, which alarmed him. His eye bags were more prominent and his skin was pale. It even looked like the skin was stretching more over his cheekbones.
Concerned, he asked, “Naosuke, you look tired, is everything okay?”
“Hm, the preparation is taking up so much time, but I’m okay.”
“Naosuke, I've known you for some time now and I know it isn’t okay. Do me a favour, you should go straight home after you get out, okay? Get some rest now, I‘ll wake you up when we reach your station.”
“Thanks Haru, you’re the best,” Naosuke smiled at him, his eyelids already dropping as he settled back into his seat, almost instantly dozing off.