Thoughts on a bus ride

Aya Nefzi

All my efforts not to notice the dusty cracks in the window annoy me a bit. Sometimes that was something I did.  


People around me are clutching onto anything that helps them maintain balance through the bad bus driving we have to endure for the next 30 minutes, it instigates perturbing thoughts that possess me, and questions like how many promises have I broken so far? Do I even care? What if all of the agony that I and most of the people whom I take the bus with, would never end? And I probably have the answer, the one that generally translates to no one really knows.  


But I can’t help but stare, stare at people older than me, adults with jobs. 

On the right side, there were a young mother tilting her weary head on one of the bus’ grey poles, raggedy backpack hanging on her right shoulder, and what seems like a sleeping three-year-old’s little head on her right shoulder. A little blond girl had red ribbons tied symmetrically on her hair, brushed against the soft fabric of her older sister’s dress. The dress was garnished with small rainbow patterns, some of them had faded out, It reached her ancles, and they were bruised. The bruises seemed like old ones that keep getting scratched. The blond little girl was often getting yelled at for not staying put.  

On the left side, lovers who share glances and whispers under the relentless stares of strangers. Two of them were holding hands so tight and could imitate the strength of the grip in my own imagination so easily. They glanced at me staring at them, so I smiled for them to know I love the warmth they send down my spine. Elders look like they are waiting for death, the destroyer of worlds. They look tired, hopeless and with no sparks in their eyes, the “eyes sparkling” is such a dreamy made up thing, that’s what I choose to believe now, maybe i’ll give up on that belief tomorrow when i’m in a slightly better mood.   


As I stand there next to the faded green chairs, fidgeting with my fingers, I come to the conclusion that the state of mind I am in is the result of a compilation of prejudices I’ve been raised upon. I’ve always been told that I have got a bright future ahead of me, that I’ll be “someone”, or that I’m destined to make great things, and since my family is expecting things of me, I should learn to have magic powers for the sake of world peace and ending hunger everywhere. Granted, doubt is crawling from the dark pits inside of me, if i dare to say “I don’t believe I can do it”  loudly, for others to hear,  so many close ones would hurry to tell me to kick these thoughts off of my brain, and how dare I question the relatively many years I spent in school, doing god knows what, talking to god knows who, passing exams, faking my facial expressions to seem like I get my lessons and that I fully understand every little detail, how dare I?  I could think of hundreds of excuses to my atrocious self-doubt, but what’s the point? We all go under different adversities and no one’s privilege is the same as the others’; The little cynical voice in my head always said that in times of confusion, I tend to own a very compelling take on things, but it’s the same words we read in inspirational Instagram posts, ones that leave me more hung upon things more than before. 

The bus driver takes a sudden stop and I lean forward, almost falling onto the smudged gray floor. “That was close” I said to myself, I gained back my balance, fully convinced  that my feet are more steady now. 


Along with my daily fears of falling to the ground in front of a crowd, at night, I seem to always wake up at startled, anxiety induced nightmares, I get attacked by my own brain, wretched thoughts as swords rip through my consciousness and send shivers down my  spine, what if I died tomorrow? Followed by “I can’t die tomorrow”, I need to finish that essay, what if they think I’m a horrible person, what if in fact I am a terrible friend? What if I genuinely don’t care about anyone but myself?  Does he, lover of mine, think of me? Does he notice when I’m not around? What if I’ll never make my parents happy? what if all the early risings and the public transport waiting is endless? Will I ever own my own car? What have I learned in the last five years? Academically, aside from the fact that automated systems are complicated and some literary works are overrated, I just know that the thrill of learning is gone, but is it forever?  


“Are you a student?” the man standing next to me asked for no apparent reason. His hair was thick and long, he reminded me of a character in a Woody Allen movie, not the protagonist for sure. He’s more of a Jacob than an Edward, and a Jacob doesn’t get the girl, instead he keeps bottling up anger. He also had few grey hairs on both sides of his head. I pretended not to hear him at first, I do that sometimes too. Still, that added one more question to the pile I already had, was I a student? Was I learning every day? Do I even want to? Did the cavemen lose their passion for fire after a while from discovering it? Bold of me to compare my doubts about academic choices to cavemen’s primitiveness, I say to myself at least they knew nothing of the world’s recent cruelties, surely, we all lived, living in the same marvellous and wretched world, but we are too differentiated by our historical eras and personal perceptions of life, yet somehow it seems to me that it is not much of a difference since we share the human emotions like fear, envy, sadness and love.  


I could see people walking home with bags of groceries, carrying their fears and anxieties inside some of them. You could tell if they had a good day or not, and usually happiness creeps up on me when I see a person having a good one. Other days I don’t know how to escape the thought of futility of everyone’s little efforts to survive. I keep forgetting how ill and nauseous I get  whenever there are too many bumps on the road, it makes me sick and I turn into a child whenever I’m sick, needing attention and care, the last place to look for that is bus N°27, a cruel and crowded one, no notion of personal space, this time I tried to take off my hefty backpack and my elbow hit an old woman’s stomach, she said it’s fine, politely smiling and shaking her head, making her gunmetal gray hair imitate her movement. 

She seemed like someone that had grandchildren who would love to spend a Sunday afternoon with her; drink lemonade on the porch while she watches them play games or make them hot chocolate and fuzzy multicoloured sweater as soon as the first chilly autumn wind touches her wrinkled skin. I spend my Sunday afternoons alone, in my room, summoning and exorcising insomnia.  Avoiding friends and family, one of the symptoms of a social illness, being naturally fuelled by my love for privacy and the power it gives me upon the ones around me, even if I know that they genuinely care to help, I convince myself that I’m able to stand up for myself,  to hold it in, until i walk the very long way to the rusty, old bus station, every day, at 5 p.m., in winters it’s dark by then, and on summers, the sun, an orange in flames, is facing me by the end of the horizon in front of me. When cars speed up and I tiptoe not to get in their way, right then and there, I catch myself feeling alone. As soon as I start self-loathing, a voice shouts from within, urging me to enjoy my own company, and I feel compelled to do so, not out of courage, but out of need.   


On that long road, whenever I forget my earphones or misplace them, I fall into the trap of misplacing my own nostalgia too. I don’t reminisce over memories with people more than I reminisce over my past self and how happy it was, jumping around from sidewalk to sidewalk in my favourite pleated skirts, facing the wind’s direction intentionally just so I witness the fabric being moved like a wave as if by invisible hands. Sometimes I get caught in my own sadness and I grieve knowing that there is a big chance I’m sad over a problem that didn’t happen and probably won’t too, I end up getting mad because I’m not right, because I’m not sad when I should be, because I’m on a bus with dozens of people who are full of frustration and I feel the need to join; which I eventually end up doing half the way to the last bus stop, which by now, is near; and as it gets closer, more passengers’ start getting off, more empty chairs created, I start Feeling the sting of self-consciousness, what have I done, what have I not done, what incongruity am I doing encore to the people I love, all that makes me hurry to check up on them, the same way they hurry to reassure me and confirm to me without any proof, how I’ll definitely be successful one day. 


As I grab my backpack closer to my chest, a woman in her 40s turns to me and asks about my final destination, I answer her with the utmost indifference and she bites her lip in disdain, I instantly feel a rush of guilt like boiling hot water invading my veins, my cheeks burn and I avoid touching my face with my dirty hands that gathered all the germs off of the bus. I look at her again and smile in vain. 

“How was your day?”  

“Was filled with ungrateful men and women” She replies 

I could not tell instantly that she was referring to me, trying to be subtle, and tempted to be as rude as she was, I say “Mine was filled with sad little women, I see some of them on the bus here with us too.” As soon as that sentence escaped my mouth, I realized that I fit into that description too.  

I often find myself going down that slippery road of accommodating and pleasing everyone, like” look at me I am being good to you and now you shall keep loving me”, or “here is my extra effort for you, yes just you, you know I love you right? even though I went MIA in your life.” and my favourite one yet “hey I just checked up on you randomly, now love me more.” 


I finally looked at the passengers still riding this large hideous vehicle, saw a woman yelling at her child for crying while using all of her face features, a middle aged man in a dark navy North Face sweater secretly glancing at a girl’s cleavage, I felt something that almost resembled resentment for the fact that ‘I’m making this trip tomorrow again, and again, and at 24 years old, I’ll gradually become like those passengers who wait for death, the destroyer of worlds. 

I got off the bus and the road seemed almost unreal, I had to look at the way my legs carried me to remind myself I’m there, and I remembered a dream where I was also on a bus, my eternal Inferno. The road ahead was painted all sky blue, and it seemed to go on and on without a limit. no bus stops along the road, I was just there, looking at a colour extending itself on every turn.