Shattered Sidewalk

I found something that day, something to keep me moving forward, something to alleviate what I was feeling when I had found out both my parents had died. I was on my way to the bus stop to enact one final ride along the city. I wished to ingrain everything I knew into my being before throwing myself into a body of water, or to let the winds carry me to an interminable solitude. It was late winter when I was arriving at the bus stop. I listened to each step as they sunk into the snow of the side walk, and watched as the cloud of my breath formed and died. The sky above was grey, and in the distance as I crawled closer to that bus stop was a grey pole covered in red, and a white bus shelter with a single guest.

I stepped in front of the pole, and peered above to see a road devoid of life. I was about to reach into my pocket, to have one last indulgence into the world above the clouds when I heard a voice from the shelter behind me. My hands were stopped into the body of the needle, and I remained gripping when I turned my head slightly to see if that voice was for me.

She had a white dress on, and her hair was flowing almost endlessly down her neck, covered in what seemed to be silver. Her cheeks were flushed red, but her lips were only a tinge of rose. Her eyes were black and empty, but seemed to have some kind of semblance to seeds.

I tried to listen again, for I didn’t hear her quite clearly the first time. Her words were an inaudible whisper in the slow winter winds. I saw her mouth move, but only heard her words a few seconds in advance.

“Are you waiting for the bus?”

It was unnerving at first, but I spoke back, expecting something similar, but getting nowhere near the same result.

“Yes. I am. I don’t see why you wouldn’t be?” She looked down, her small hands kept in her lap, and she seemed to be looking at something beyond my eyes. There was nothing on that shelter floor, but her focus told me otherwise. She was staring so intently that I almost thought she had passed away right there in the middle of the dead snow.

I looked away, barely able to judge her in my own abated breath before she drew me back. I listened more intently as she did so, finding her voice to be like the whistling trees of the dead winter. There was an even stranger dichotomy when the actual trees surrounding the area began whistling back. Her voice wasn’t stinging, nor did it feel as hollow.

“You must not meet many people then.” I tried to turn to face her before speaking, but she spoke out in almost a yell, “Don’t. Don’t turn. You can’t look at me.” I turned facing the street again, shrugging, and walked into the glass of the shelter, such that I could pull my weight and stand effortlessly.

“You come to bus stops to meet people?” As my back was turned, I couldn’t tell whether she was taking her time thinking, or if it was the lull in her voice. That silence in-between was far more deafening than I would have ever expected.

“It’s the best place to catch people without their guards.”

“Without their guards?”

“I’m just a stranger, and so are you. Most people won’t care for a simple exchange of words. How about you?”

“I guess after this bus ride I won’t ever see you, so it wouldn’t hurt.” I could feel her nod. The silence blew across the snow, and I wondered if this meant that she wanted me to continue, or if it was just a pause in her again. Soon enough, she coughed, and then she began speaking again. Her voice was trailing this time, wistfully into a world I couldn’t see.

“Where are you going then?” She asked.

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?”

“I’m riding somewhere, if that counts for anything. But I don’t know where that ride will bring me. Strange I know.” I could feel her shake her head.

“I’d say it’s far stranger to be at a bus stop not expecting to go anywhere. At least you have some vague image of a place, right?”

“I guess I do?” I tried to imagine something, a concrete image of where I would end up killing myself at the end of my ride around the city. Although fuzzy, I could barely make it out. I had an astute image of my silhouette falling into a puddle of water. I shook my head.

“What about you? What kind of people do you expect to find at the bus stop?”

“Sometimes I think I’d like to talk to a busy desk worker. Sometimes I think I’d like to talk to a student busy with examinations.” She stopped. The snow piling on the roof of a house across the street fell, then she began again.

“And sometimes, I think I’d like to talk to a person who doesn’t know where he’s taking the bus to.”

“Which of those three do you have the most fun with?”

“Fun?” I laid my head onto the glass of the shelter, letting the frost envelop the back of my head as I watched my breath materialize and disappear.

“I mean, why else would you be doing this, if you didn’t like it right?”

“That’s a matter of semantics. Most people would die if they could do something they loved without consequence. But that’s not how the world works.”

“In that case, why are you talking to people at a bus stop?”

“Why not? Just like you have nowhere you want to go, I have no one I want to talk to. And so I’ll sit here, waiting, talking to anyone.” I lowered my head, and summoned a breath onto my hands. The streets harbored no cars, no signs of the bus, nor any watchful eyes from across the street. Only the slow winter winds, and the falling piles of roof-snow accompanied us. I couldn’t even see her face.

“Sure sounds lonely.” I was respectful to that notion of loneliness, though my feelings were wrapped in hard snow. The type of snow you wouldn’t like getting thrown at your face, the type of snow with a rock nestled inside ready to blow your brains out.

“Lonely?”

“You sit around waiting for people to come to a bus stop. Chances are, most will ignore you, and even then, they’ll eventually leave you right? Sitting here all by yourself is something–” I ate my words before I could finish them. I swallowed, and then began again.

“Well it’s something I guess I could do as well. But it’s still quite lonesome.”

“Lonely…” She repeated those words in a whisper, barely able to attune them with my ears. Her words were drowned by the winds, and the more I had to wait in that silence, the more I wanted to turn and see her.

“Are you lonely?” She asked me.

“Me?” I turned those words around in my head, wondering if I would say I was lonely. Surely there was a sense of loneliness adorned by the death of my parents. I ran those words in my head, imagining them as cars crossing the streets on this dead winter day. I thought about the reasons I wanted to end my own life. It wasn’t because of the loneliness I concluded, it was because of the fact that they were no longer human. They had become beings far beyond my comprehension.  I watched as the snow across the street began piling up in front of the door.

“I don’t think I’m lonely. No, I don’t think it’s right to say that I’m lonely,” I answered.

“I see. I thought you were lonely.”

“Why’s that?” I looked at the painted red across the grey pole that stood beside the bus shelter. It was a beacon, an indication of a landmark, and at the same time, the only color that existed on this day. I took another breath, watching as it lingered just a few seconds longer than my other breaths. For a second, I had wished it would stay with me forever.

“Because, I thought that anyone wanting to ride a bus without a destination was running away.”

“Running away?”

“I thought you were going to ride and keep on riding until you eventually dropped dead. Otherwise, why go on a bus if you don’t know where you’ll be going, right? I thought maybe you were lonely because you didn’t like where you were.”

“It’s nothing of the sort, I can tell you that. But that’s a strange way to see things. Why can’t a person just want to ride a bus? See where it takes you, right?”

“Something like, riding the wave of life?” I smiled.

“Yeah. Probably something like that.”

“In that case, why not decide to live.” There was a stiffening silence as I waited for her to continue.  When she didn’t speak, and when I noticed that the bus had finally arrived at the end of the street, I turned. She was gone. I walked into the shelter, and took a seat beside where she would have been. I closed my eyes, and then listened for the bus riding into the stop. It’s wheels crunched on the snow with every revolution, and I played her last words over my head. The shelter was warm that day. The bus passed me by, and I opened my eyes only to see that it was half way down the street, far from my arm’s reach. The snow on the bus shelter’s roof fell beside me as I stepped out. I took another breath and watched as it formed in front of me. I didn’t know why, but I felt compelled to answer her last words with action. From that day on, I kept visiting the bus stop, waiting to see her again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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