Jonathan stepped onto the bus and paid the fee. Finding his usual seat and settling into it with a huff, he pulled out his earbuds and began searching through his phone for songs. For the past three days, he’d been trying to understand how someone could have five hundred songs on their phone and still not find anything to listen to. Giving a small sigh, he picked one he’d heard a million times before, a classical remix that always gave him chills.
The music slid rapidly into the background noise as he worried about how he was going to come up with this month’s rent. His catering job wasn’t supporting him or his little girls, so he had been seriously considering taking up another job to bridge the gap between ends. If he did that, though, he didn’t know how he was going to find the time to take care of Elizabeth and Victoria. He still needed to get a headstone for Belle.
The bus stopped, throwing everyone inside slightly forward and jolting him out of his worries for a moment. Confusion creased his forehead as the doors hissed open to let more passengers aboard. His house was supposed to be the last stop. Bemused, he looked up and watched as a young woman stepped on and paid the driver. Mild curiosity satiated, worry pushed in from the edges so that it just took too much effort to care, and he let it go with a shrug. The company who owned the service probably added on the new stop at some point. Letting out another sigh, he turned his head to the window to ignore the world again. More than anything at the moment, he just wanted to go get some sleep.
A gentle tap on his shoulder made him jump before he could even begin to doze. Turning his head sharply, he was met with a set of deep, onyx-colored eyes. The young woman from the stop after his had chosen to sit next to him. He almost turned away with another shrug, but she held his gaze and waved her hands in a few gestures that meant nothing to him. She must have caught his involuntary smirk of confusion, as she looked a bit crestfallen for a second.
Raising a single finger in the universal ‘one moment’ sign, she dug in her pocket before coming out with her phone and beginning to type furiously on it. Shrugging yet again, Jonathan was about to turn back to the window when she tapped his shoulder again and showed him her phone screen.
What song are you listening to?
Taken aback, Jonathan scrambled for his phone and checked. The song had changed to a pleasant instrumental remix of a video game song. He rattled off the name to her and was surprised to see her eyes light up as she began to type on her phone again.
“Um… Why don’t you just ask me out loud?”
Without missing a beat, the phone screen was shown to him again.
I am deaf and mute.
Embarrassed heat rushed into his cheeks.
“Oh. I’m so sorry.”
Don’t be. It happens all the time.
Jonathan nodded and sat there for a moment still feeling a little awkward. He glanced ahead of him and saw all the other seats were empty. He wondered why she sat with him. The phone was shown to him yet again.
May I listen, too?
Managing to hide his momentary confuzzlement, Jonathan nodded dumbly, faintly remembering from somewhere that deaf people could feel the vibrations of music. He pulled the earbuds from his ears and turned the music all the way up, so that he could hear it clearly with the earbud a foot away from his head. He offered one to her, only to have her shake her head. She motioned for him to put the earbud in. Hesitantly, he complied.
This woman was strange. She asked to listen, and yet she didn’t want to feel the vibrations of the music... How was she going to listen to it? Nevertheless, he set the offered earbud in between them, close to her. Rather than turn down the volume to avoid murdering his own ear, he instead threw the other over his shoulder. That done, he turned back to his phone and started the song over.
It was strange how having another person ‘listening’ to the same song with him made him more attuned to the song himself. He heard every violin note, base drop, and the complementary piano melody. For the first time in a long while, the song sent the same chills coursing along his spine that it had the first time. He looked over to the woman again and found that her eyes were closed, and she had a pleasant smile gracing her lips and chill bumps on her arms. She opened her eyes and instantly met his. Heat flushed his cheeks again, urging him to look away. He went back to listening to the song.
Before long, the bus stopped. He made to get up, but one glance out of the window told him that it wasn't his stop. Sitting back down, he pulled his hoodie over his head. The worry that had previously plagued him faded with the euphoria from the song. Now, he just wanted to go home and play with his kids.
The woman stood up and smiled at him. Just before she stepped off, she met his eyes one last time.
“Thank you for the song!”
The words chimed in the most angelic voice he had ever heard.
She never moved her lips.