I arrived by bus. Not the type of route that circled endlessly around campus, or one that transported a select group of students from some insular student housing a couple miles away to school and back. But a real bus route that traveled from the central station in West City, all the way to the suburbs of Eastville. A wide group of people relied on it: undergrads, grad students, law students, med students, high school students, homeless and working class people, service industry employees. It was a diverse crowd, but they all shared a trait. A lack of money. It was the dreaded route #4. I knew about it’s reputation only because the Shook University Facebook Group loved bashing it. This was my first time riding it.
West City wasn’t so far, I realized, now that I’d finally rode in, but after the past 2 months on campus, this neighboring place felt a world apart. There was a sense of gloom and grime. Not in a fetishized postapocalyptic way with some immediate danger. No obvious tyrant, but instead hopelessness. It felt like the mood of people who have given up. I found it beautiful.
It felt like scene transition in a movie. One of those scenes that marked an irreversible change to the character.
I thought of such permanent marks of my past. The first time I realized how easily you could hurt somebody when I pushed my friend off their bike when they weren’t looking, just for fun. The first time I had leaked blood into my pants and the school nurse had told me that this would happen to me every month from then on. When I realized who my best friends were. And when I realized that no friendship was guaranteed to last forever.
How could something so simple as taking the bus, route #4 be so significant? Thousands of people took this route every day. Going to work; going to the park; going to do whatever regular people did.
Also, how is it that I expected a simple bus ride, the same one that all these other people took as meaning something more to me than it would for them. Was I special? No, I thought. But yes I felt. Not in an absolute way where I was a special person. Just that in this context, I was special. Like this bus, and the people in it, the entire city it was driving to, was all there not for the sake of being there, but for me. This was all for me so that I could experience it.
I knew that I was being delusional. I wasn’t five. I knew that the world… or not even the world in this case but just a couple hundred thousand people, didn’t exist simply to serve as a backdrop for some 18 year old freshman. But that’s how I legitimately felt at this moment, taking route #4, to West City. This was delusion, just the right amount of it. Anyone who has irreversibly grown out of childhood should experience this feeling at least once more as adults, I thought as the bus came screeching to a halt.
I looked out the window. I checked the time on my phone. Then after a moment of thought, I stood up and left the bus.