Bus ride

She flagged frantically, breathlessly running toward the berth.
“Thank you, Uncle”, she sank gratefully¬†into a seat by the window.

“I lose my rhythm, lose my soul”, her Spotify playlist enveloped her. She looked out of the window out of habit, taking in the flurry of activity on the other side of the glass. A strange calm settled in – there was always a strange peace to being on the other side. Looking in or looking out, time stopped. Voices were dulled and gestures exaggerated. It was comforting how everyone moved to the same rhythm.

Blocks after blocks. Buildings after buildings. People toiling, lived-in and vacant. Each window was the start of its own story, a story she wasn’t privy to.

There was a stirring, she felt a sense of uneasiness. Standing up and almost elbowing the lady beside her, she looked around desperately for the welcome yellow of the bus bell.

They had reached an expressway.

“Sorry, Aunty, sorry” she squeezed into her seat with a defeated sigh.

Lights dotted the expressway – red freckles against black tar. Yellow against the cacophony. Lined up behind and beside. Light after light. Lights after lights. Light after light. Each comforting yet cold.

Her hand was poised to reach for the bell. They had passed a dam with an unfamiliar name. Her brows furrowed as she mouthed the words on the sign. “Orto” the words caught. She struggled to remember what it was before. Bottle-neck, gourd tree, bottle-tree. She fumbled with the words, trying to regain that slick taste she stored.

She did not press the bell.

Funny how this bus was the right one yet it did not seem to be the way home.

A young couple got on, with a child in tow. She studied them carefully. The face was familiar yet she could not place it, not in a family at least.

She knew him. She had seen him at 8am everyday for that 1 year. He was always waiting for the 8.15, bag in one hand, a steaming pau in the other. She had never spoken to him, except to exchange weary glances when they had both tsk-ed impatiently when the 8.15 was late.

The human memory was fascinating with the faces it committed and the details it lived.

He caught her staring. Surprise was replaced with recognition. He gave a slight nod and smile, acknowledging all the time that had past.

It is when you notice time, that you become aware of how it passes.

She pressed the bell. She had finally reached her stop.

She stumbled slightly as she got off. Taking a moment to recover, she nearly fell as the people behind her tried to alight as well. Only missing a beat, she walked off with renewed rigor.

She had to get home.

The living lived and the bus ran everyday, even if 8.15 became 8.20.

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