by Ryan Menner
Thirteen. Every syllable of the word uttered a painful moment that felt like days in a Venezuelan Jailhouse. Alas thirteen, and counting, marked mere minutes that the slow, old, inbound bus was late by. I wonder how many months or years of a human’s life was wasted waiting? The countless moments lost to the meaningless task of waiting. Inactive, it is the most suppressive, unemotional and inhuman state of being. Standing at the edge of the curb, I had assumed the undelegated responsibility of bus hailer as others flocked around the bus stop like sheep to a shepherd. ‘He was here before us, surely we haven’t missed the bus,’ they all thought. As each minute went by anxiety ascended on the emotionless bodies huddled around the modest structure that constituted our bus stop.
As always the vain upstart was applying her make up. The slightly too loud commuter was chattering away at an obnoxious pace to his second string ‘time-fillers’. The disgruntled middle-aged man stood at attendance, with his worn backpack, wondering why he has bothered getting out of bed each and every weekday at 6:45am for past ten years. Finally the ‘master-commuter’ with those cliché white veins connecting ears to that little black brick we live our life by.
A passing garbage truck sends false hope through the crowd, like a highly charged defibrillator. One eager man rises, awkwardly realising the falseness of his premature jubilation. Many look to me, reassured by my cavalier stance that it is not the promised chariot coming down the street. Finally the bus glides around the corner, lowering its gears in anticipation. Fulfilling my important role I hale the bus, noticing in the corner of my eye the odd eager hands craned ready to take my place if I reneged responsibility. The bus reciprocated with the subtle left indication, pulling into the bus stop with unrivalled road superiority.
The gentrified bus stop empties, the bus is as full as expected. The faces on the bus are no friendlier than the solemn ones that filled the bus stop. The bus reeks of melancholy and middle-aged pessimism. I find myself seated next to 30-something year old woman, modest in every sense of the word. As the bus disembarks the loading bay, I discover I am without those imperative white laces that allow us to disengage from all manner of social discourse in this barren and unproductive form of transit.
I now find my self with no solace but that of my own mind. Looking around, I find it difficult to engage in an activity that is socially acceptable. Accepting my disposition I slip into a transient daydream. It remains momentary; my thoughts become distracted by the noisy toddler towards the front of the bus. He isn’t obnoxious or even really that loud, like most boys his age. He was asking questions of relative insignificant to the unresponsive man, I can only assume to be the young boy’s father. How utterly inappropriate for a man to not only bring a small child on to a bus this time, but to completely ignore him. I contemplated the notion many parents would revel in the opportunity to spend this seemingly meaningless time with their own children. What a selfish man I thought, the young boy seemed to crave the smallest inkling of interest from his father. Perhaps like many children the father thought if he gave an inch, he’d go a mile.
Intrigued by this small insight into the life of a fellow commuter I decided to let my eyes dance between faces and people sharing my transit. Unfortunately there wasn’t really anyone interesting on the bus. My attention turned to a young man who sat diagonally in front of me. He was dressed in a rather pretentious, tailored suit, completed with a pair of ostentatious yet stylish cufflinks. No doubt he had just received a corporate job courtesy of his father or perhaps another family connection. He seemed so proud to be part of the highbrow arena of the corporate world. How could you blame him for his pride, he was living the dream his parents had given him. Perhaps it isn’t an ideal state of being, perhaps it isn’t the purpose of life but it was the one he was given. Hollow and shallow it was the only one he knew, and he was there to see it through. He wore his suit like a coat of armour.
The bus halted at a rather obscure spot and on came the skeleton of a girl. Her skin had tones that made a florescent light seem dark. She thudded on to the bus; her face was so utterly miserable you think she’d lived in South Sudan, alas for her skin tone. Each step was awkward, as her midget pray mantis body coordinated with the ostentatious Doc Martins; she undoubtedly wears so we know she is ‘Indie’, even if we didn’t get that from rigmarole of fabric she donned worthy to wear at this hour. She passes by vacant seats, and in a reluctant haze that can only be described as the subtle confirmation she was really the immature, spoilt bitch-face she was trying so hard to avoid being, she sat down next to the young man. Placing her outrageously impractical, ridiculous marsupial backpack plain in my eyesight. She was cliché to a tee.
I contemplated the notion that the two of them might perhaps have much more in common then their obvious pretentious tendencies. As I observed their primitive, awkward, and utterly pathetic body language (or lack there of it), it became clear they both adopted these personas. Every piece of their carefully articulated fictional personality hides the same insecurities. As they shared the bus ride I acknowledged the impossibility that these two may ever interact in a proper social format. A strangely foreign concept considering they had a unique commonality. We are human. We all breathe, we all feel, we all communicate, we all acknowledge. It’s a real wonder that the majority of us have not the slightest notion of how the other works. We think we know, but really it’s an organised chaos we piece together from the false familiarity of the ones around us. Maybe one night, drunk and high, they’d stumble into the same dive. Maybe they would fall in love. But that doesn’t happen. I looked over at these people.
And as the bus stopped, they all disembarked, headed in different directions. This was their one common path, headed all different directions. Usually they are all on their own path leading. Paths that, are countless in number and directions, yet have only two destinations. Happiness. And still waiting for happiness.