It’s been a cold morning, and it’s barely 7am. The bus is so warm; my eyelids are too heavy to keep awake for long, and the commute has barely started. I can’t resist the opportunity to close them, letting myself shut off some of my consciousness.
(I have become a scene, myself, now. I’m the girl dozing on the bus, earphones in and phone alarm set to awaken me if I don’t naturally wake before I reach my stop.)
The route is familiar and I’m always a little worried that it’ll lull me into a deeper sleep, make me miss my stop and wind up on the wrong side of town. Instead, the normal road turns and curves wake me back up after just a few minutes; even so I feel a little more refreshed than if I hadn’t “slept”.
Angling myself back to the window, I wipe away a patch of condensation to better see what’s going on. The morning is still dark – sunrise doesn’t happen until about 8am in the dead of winter, and by then I’ll be at work, already starting up the computer and going through paper notes of things I need to deal with. Through the dark, I can catch glimpses of houses zipping by, and sometimes there’s enough window space to get an idea of what’s going on.
Stalled at a light. 7:30, and I can see a kitchen. Someone moves around, maybe making coffee or preparing breakfast, and I see the TV flickering in the background. At this time of day I imagine it’s the news, though I don’t see or hear it myself. Normally my news feed comes from scrolling through a couple of news sites on my phone in between dozing and playing games. If I focus hard enough I can almost imagine the tone of a broadcaster, reporting the latest happenings and bantering with colleagues.
Most of the time I don’t try this.
The person in the room moves, out of sight, and the bus carries on. Green light, then. This routine is so familiar to me that even if I kept my eyes closed for most of the journey I would be able to predict accurately where in the route I was – I’ve done it before, more than once.
There’s a little cafe-bakery on the corner, opposite the bus, and as I look in, I see a girl typing on her phone. She’s immersed, has the same dazed-zombie look I see every time I glance around the bus or the local cafe where I sometimes have lunch. A guy approaches her, swoops in and kisses the crown of her head as she carries on typing, shifts her head and holds up the phone. A selfie, maybe, I recognize the posture and she’s mimicking the same thing that I’ve seen countless others do. The guy looks momentarily deflated before he goes to the counter and orders, sits opposite her.
I wonder how many hours he’s spent waiting for her to finish her phone-work.
His back is to the window, I can only see her when she places the phone down and looks up at her. She doesn’t take his hand, but he brushes his thumb along her wrist, trying to calm her from the look of it. Her hands gesture wildly even as her lips barely move.
The last I see of them is her pulling things into her bag. It’s a scene I’ll have to finish for myself; the bus is gone before I can see how this resolves itself.
My bus pulls up to the stop I get off at, precisely eight minutes’ walk to the office, and as I’m watching the hordes of people in a busy city I spy a girl putting in her earrings as she walks. Her entire outfit is a mess of contradictions: she’s wearing running shoes with a pencil skirt and blouse; as I watch she dips her hand into the bag, produces a coin purse and pauses walking to put on her necklace, finds a tube of something and swipes it over her lips.
Then she’s gone, blending seamlessly into a crowd. If I wasn’t looking at the spot where she was, I’d never know she had been there.
I’m off the bus now, clicking my heels against the pavement and thumbing through the catalogue of songs on my phone, finding two more to tide me through the last few minutes before I’m at work. Pause at the next bus shelter; brace my hand against the cold metal seat to rezip my boot and then tap the next to select a new song.
Readjust my earphones in my ears, wave to my boss who’s going out for Monday’s early-morning coffee run, and straighten my spine as soon as I’m through the sliding doors into the security-camera’d lobby.
As I start up my computer and step out to make coffee, I’m thinking back over the encounters from today.
I wonder what others would notice about me if they were to watch?