November 6, 2014
Nothing. Once again, I had to awkwardly shove my empty screened phone back into my purse. Now came the decision to either look out the window, or take a quick scan of the bus.
Anything to keep myself from nodding off, running the risk of revealing to a bus of complete strangers how irresistible I am when my mouth hangs open with drool.
I already knew how this would end, I lock eyes with someone, and I then immediately regret my decision, darting my eyes to the ground in shame. There is no middle-ground when surveying a bus. There are only two outcomes; good eye contact and bad eye contact. When half your day is spent on the bus shuttling to and from work you pick up on such things.
Either a brief moment of mutual understanding occurs, where the two of you know that staring at anonymous bus patrons is an action of reflex; not the act of picking out your next victim to hog-tie in your laundry room.
Which leads to bad eye contact, that moment when the person you accidentally focus in on is immediately terrified, insulted, confused, and just over all uncomfortable. Which I never quite understood; if they were not doing the exact same thing, this would have never happened! So in reality, this isn’t my fault god dammit.
I should mention that I do realize that majority of people would not suspect a half-asleep 25 year old, female of being Canada’s Next Top Serial Killer. They would most likely just chalk it up to being creepy.
Just plain creepy.
Anyway, I had already gone full circle in my thinking. My daily internal speech came to an end as I once again received the latter of my commute interactions. This time around from a poor, portly schlubb who then clutched onto his lunch bag for dear life. Spending the rest of his trip awaiting me to transform into an evil bus molester.
Every day I would secretly crave one thing, only to have my hopes subtly dashed as I stepped off the bus at the end of my ride. I craved what most single women crave; attention, interaction, and excitement. Fuelled by my media-tainted imagination, images of a lusty cat and mouse stare off with a handsome stranger continued to grow in my mind. It was the only thing to nurse my bruised ego, repairing my self-image after the short, dumpy man of my reality brought it down.
Little did I know, as I stepped off at my stop that particular morning that I would get that cat and mouse game. But it would not be with a handsome stranger. It would not be romantic. This. This would just not be it.
November 7, 2014
It was a brisk morning as I tried to distinguish my chilled breath from the tobacco smoke I steadily puffed. Not being used to being up at such an ungodly hour, I regretted choosing extra cash instead of my cherished sleep.
I fed my grumpiness with an abundance of caffeine, nicotine, and really any stimulant I could get my hands on at 7:30 in the am.
My ride burped its way up the street, making my shit mood all the more apparent as I mumbled criticisms at its pace. The bus was already a half hour late, and it was taking it’s sweet ass time chugging it’s way over to bring me to work, filled with my no doubt steamed co-workers. I smoked my cigarette way past its filter, leaving me with an unpleasant taste on my tongue as I stepped onto the bus.
My attitude was immediately checked back into place when my detachment hurled me into an unsuspecting woman as the bus moved along.
“I’m so sorry”, I choked on my own embarrassment, but to my relief I was met with kind eyes.
The woman gathered herself, and flashed me a brief smile, “Oh that’s okay.”
I smiled back, and settled into the seat across from her. As per routine, I snuck glances at this woman, desperately trying to keep my eyes open as the low rumble of my ride attempted to lull me off to sleep.
She was average looking, a woman I would expect to see in my neighbourhood. Her face was prematurely aged with years of tobacco abuse, making me nervous of my own bad habit. Five different tones of box-coloured blonde peeked out from her grown out bob-cut.
Her eyes met mine and my gaze was returned with a nervous yet understanding smile. Black liner smudged her lash lines, matched with a metallic blue shadow. She was a child of the disco era that was for sure. Her thick heeled boot, dress pant and blazer were tells of civil service status. Her worn ID badge with the name too small to distinguish told me she had been at this job for quite some time. She had an overall vibe of regularity and schedule. She was comfortable with her life, used to the whole bus scene. Which is most likely why she made no attempt to stop my surveillance.
It was only the screams of police car and ambulance sirens that broke my focus, they were a usual occurrence once my ride veered into the downtown area. It provides a moment of bus solidarity as almost everyone will crane their necks to watch them zoom by in hopes of catching some of the action.
Once the excitement passed, I went back to the woman. Who then had an intent focus on the sirens, with a calm but pained expression locked onto her face. Her eyes remained in that direction even as she stepped off the bus.
It was as I inadvertently dozed off that I caught her stare and smile again as the bus pulled out and forward. I missed my stop that morning… I was late, and was reminded of it for the rest of that day.
November 8, 2014
I found myself cosily nestled in a corner seat when I once again noticed the woman. I decided from then on I would call her Gwendoline, on account of an uncanny resemblance to a co-worker of mine who shared the same name. Only we called her Gwen, she thought the whole name made her sound, “like an old bag”.
The more I examined Gwendoline, the more curious I became of her to cure my own boredom.
I wondered if the caked on make-up was a result of similar circumstance.
I had archives of stories about Gwen, who had a habit of repeating stories and anecdotes about her life. Tales of her one bedroom condo, of her multiple divorces, of her son Ryan; whom she tried to play match-maker with myself this one time.
(Little did she know that a kind of relationship did form between her son and I during her cupid schemes. Ryan is now my pot dealer. So thank you Gwendoline, for supporting yet another of my bad habits.)
I began to wonder what Gwendoline’s life was like. What gave her this air of nervousness, this overall look of calm acceptance of her hard trodden life? What gave Gwendoline this appearance of understanding?
Does she, like Gwen, also have more than one failed marriage under her belt? Does she also have a one bedroom condo in the dumpy end of town? Does her son also deal pot to me when my regular dealer goes A-WOL? Does she even have children?
I was too busy creating bus Gwendoline’s life story to notice she was eyeing me as she stepped of the bus. My cheeks flushed red, and I planted my eyes to the ground for the remainder of the ride.
That’s when I realized I had formed an odd obsession with her, a relationship she had no idea about. A relationship I would not take home with me, a relationship that starts and ends on my daily commute to work. When I went home that night I would not think of Gwendoline.
November 9, 2014
My curiosity had turned from innocent speculation, to being down right nosy.
I would eventually learn to regret my actions.
I would regret the second I stumbled into Gwendoline for the first time that morning.
I would end up spending many nights forcing myself to sleep with hits upon hits of Ryan’s sub-par pot. With relentless thoughts of coincidence, and morbid serendipity.
I didn't get a seat that morning, the bus was unusually packed. I overheard murmurs of a traffic build up here, and sections of down-town being closed off there because of an accident, or construction; the usual.
Either way I didn't much care, I was too preoccupied with a man’s gut being shoved into me, or a backpack I can’t quite remember these days, forcing me into one of the back doors.
I was growing more and more annoyed until I saw her. She became my daily breath of fresh air. My main focus that kept me from my eye-contact dilemma. I hadn't realized she was sitting right behind me.
I wish, I wish so badly I never noticed her.
I wish that I didn't squeeze my way into the seat behind her.
I wish I didn't look over her shoulder to catch the screen of her outdated flip phone.
I wish I did not see the message she received from (613)8996773.
I fucked up.
Please answer me. Please.
November 14, 2014
My day and my work were finally over. My mind and my phone would usually be buzzing, excited to turn my work week into the weekend.
I wouldn't have even been bothered by not seeing Gwendoline those last couple of days.
If not for that fucking text message.
If it weren't for my barging into Gwendoline’s life the way I did. The image of it was branded into my memory, the message sounding more and more ominous as I repeated it to myself over and over and over. All I wanted was to keep myself awake on the bus, all I wanted was to avoid awkward eye contact. She was supposed to be my hobby, a woman I was getting to know in silence; just to pass the time.
The reality of it was, I did not know her, and never would. I knew nothing of her life, but still felt I had a right to be a part of it, whether she knew about it or not. I still know nothing beyond what bus she takes, the face she puts on every day, or that she has a brick for a phone.
But more importantly, I knew something had broken her down.
I unlocked my front door, and collapsed onto my couch. Undoing my work pants I sparked up a roach, and inhaled my work day away. The silence of my house unnerved me, so I flicked on the television for company.
The roach wasn't enough, so I started to roll another. The TV was only loud enough to hiss white noise to break the silence and ease my grass fuelled paranoia. I felt my shoulders sink as I breathed in the musty smoke. I zoned out into a lovey-dovey-supposed-to-be-inspiring tale of an over-privileged local teen. Whose only accomplishment was being the Mayor’s daughter, one of those stories saved for supper time news.
I turned up the volume when a ridiculously handsome stranger appeared on my television screen. I was too busy staring at his face to realize words were coming from it, until his face disappeared and was replaced with a shaky, live broadcast.
My television projected the image of a young man being lead into a patrol car, a beaten up leather coat draped over his handcuffed shame. A crowd had gathered, and inaudible screams and heckles attacked him, each of them leaving a mark on his tired expression.
Words ticker taped along the bottom of my television screen.
SUSPECT OF FATAL HIT AND RUN APPREHENDED.
Naturally my compassion for the victims kicked in, and my hatred for this strange man grew. In a pagan like fashion, I jumped on the band wagon and silently attempted to send my ill-will via television to this murderer, this scum. This cowa-
That’s when I felt my stomach hit the floor, and I could feel its juices gurgle into my throat leaving it raw and stiff.
She was there. Tucked into the modest doorway the suspect was just dragged from.
Gwendoline. Gwendoline. What the fuck Gwendoline, what are you doing here!? I had screamed this out loud, my disbelief sent me into a spiral.
Her quaint nervousness was gone, her thick liner, and disco-tech shadow; gone. Her name tag was gone, along with her understanding smile. All that was left was a broken woman, spent and emotionally worn out. Fragments of someone I didn’t even know. She held herself as no one else would do it, clutching onto her own shaking arms as she sobbed in shock, as if to keep herself from shattering to pieces.
Broken by the sight of the impending incarceration of her son.
I fucked up.
Please answer me. Please.
I sat bewildered even as the story wrapped up and the handsome newscaster returned. While my brain fidgeted the pieces together.
SUSPECT OF FATAL HIT AND RUN APPREHENDED.
I listened to the news anchor offering his scripted condolences for the victim’s family.
He did not extend condolence to Gwendoline.
No condolences of any kind were offered to Gwendoline.
I doubt there ever will be.
November 17, 2014
My weekend came and went in a haze, and the new week started with yet another brisk morning. Colder than last week, a bitter wind trailed me onto the bus shivering me down into the closest seat.
I looked up and Gwendoline was not sitting across from me.
She was not beside me.
She was not near the back of the bus.
She was gone.
I would never know what came of her. A bitter-sweet ending to the cat and mouse staring match I hadn't originally wished for but received. Leaving me with haunting vignettes into a life I had no business entering. Bringing on a whole new terror to my bus interactions.
That’s when good looking boy, about my age, with tufts of a winter beard shadowing his jaw flashed me a smile. An invitation into the romantic interlude I wanted in the first place.
I stared into his eyes.
Held his gaze until…
I turned away, and focused out the window.
Not this time. I’d rather feel alone and creepy on the bus, scare fat men with lunch pails, fall asleep and miss my stop again; then enter the unknown of a strangers life. Or worse, let them into mine.
Sara Myers is an aspiring writer struggling to be a productive member of society. Born and raised in Ottawa, she has spent many summers in Nova Scotia with the rest of her oddball family. Which, as you will soon discover, explains a lot.