This is a story I wrote during my junior year of high school. I was at my artistic peak at the time, I believe.
I'm an ENFP who is very observant and...well, emotional! I blame my [Ne] for letting me absorb and intake everything around me, and my [Fi] for internalizing my thoughts and feelings to put on several pieces of paper. I hope you all will enjoy reading this true story as much I had fun writing it. Cheers! (P.S. It is very visually descriptive, so use your imagination!...and you should play the song "Use Somebody" by Kings of Leon when it is mentioned!)
The Ride Home
It was Wednesday, March 23rd of the year 2011. I had not taken the VTA for over a decade, so I decided to take one that day. Little did I know, I would receive a great insight after a journey on a great white bus.
I had been at school that afternoon. My friends and I just finished shooting a film for our high school class project. After a nice fattening meal at Burger King across the street, we decided to hang around at school until our parents came to pick us up. My mother wouldn’t be able to come home until late at night, around eight. My father would be at work until past midnight. So as I watched two of my friends get in their cars and go home, I walked with the one remaining person back to his bus stop. It was here that I decided to take the bus home. My friend sat on the bench and waved me off as I walked the other way (my bus stop was at the other end of the street, around the corner). I wondered how it felt for him to take the bus home every day.
Approaching bus stop at the far end of Sylvandale Road where my middle school was, I saw the dark blue sign fifteen feet above, inscribed with white lettering, symbols, and the unmistakable number seventy-two. I saw a man in blue jean overalls sitting down on the bench. Now, I wasn’t one to talk to strangers, but I felt particularly open today for some reason. I set my books and backpack down and said, “Good afternoon,” with a smile. He greeted me back and walked away a short time later to smoke a cigarette. I sat down on the bench, lay back, and put my arms behind me and to the side. Life felt slow at this moment. The sunset, the whir of cars passing by, and the occasional sound of rap music coming out of some man’s stereo system lightly tapped my eardrums.
After 10 minutes of waiting, the bus finally came. The colossal size of the thing amazed me. I was standing two feet away from it for the first time in a perhaps twelve years. The doors of the white giant opened up, and I saw at the driver’s seat and old woman that seemed to be in her seventies, with aged skin and grey hair. The doors closed behind me as I tried taking out some money to put into the machine. “One seventy-five, isn’t it?” I bothered her. With a frown, she said yes. She had a scornful attitude that I disliked, but I did not say anything. The bus jerked forward, and I lost my balance and almost fell over, drowned in the sound of the bus’ loud engine. It was difficult to insert the money into the intricate little machine next to her, but I was able to do so anyway. It was the most awkward feeling, fighting inertia, friction, and gravity at the same time as I fed $1.75 from my black leather wallet into the slot. Putting my wallet back into my pocket, I turned my head to the left and looked down the aisle to see long blue seats on opposite sides of the bus facing each other. Several people were already seated down, their burning stares penetrating the front of my face. I saw one of my classmates from school sitting at the back of the bus and greeted him. I would’ve gone over and sat down with him too, but his girlfriend was back there with him. Instead, I sat down at the seat nearest me at the front and on the right side of the bus, reserved for the handicapped. In front of me, opposite my side, was a middle-aged woman minding her own business, staring out the windows. I relaxed and looked out the front of the bus as well. The familiar buildings and the metropolitan area that I knew were beginning to fade into obscurity.
From what I knew, there was a bus stop near my home. What I didn’t know was that I was supposed to pull the cord in order to get off. We passed the sign I had previously mentioned, and then I realized that I was supposed to pull the cord. I thought to myself, oh well, the bus will make a round trip anyway. I’ll wait until then. This mysterious optimism accompanied me the entire trip. I leaned back in my seat and put on some headphones. I connected it to my Sidekick cell phone (which had about 20% of battery power left), glaring green with its cover. Playing “Use Somebody” by Kings of Leon felt right at the time. I took out my book of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and began skimming, in order to pass the time that it took for the bus to make its round trip. Along the way, the bus stopped several times to pick up other riders. It was the strangest thing. Here I was, one almost-seventeen-year-old boy sitting in a bus full of people that I didn’t know, except for a classmate way at the back. People got on the bus. People got off the bus. Both familiar and unfamiliar shadows and silhouettes that floated through the bus aisle like phantoms, finding a place to settle down. Later on, my friend got off with his girlfriend and I waved him goodbye. A little bit later, a Filipina woman with a dark tan complexion came in who looked as if she were homeless, and I’m not one to judge, but perhaps she was. This Filipina woman sat in front of me, opposite of my seat on the other side of the bus, next to the first woman that I saw. I peered over the top of my book and saw this woman. She had missing teeth, dirty blonde hair, an old face, and was eating something that looked like a ball of rice. She was talkative, happy even, to be here with other people. She offered the rice ball to the woman beside her, but she declined the offer kindly. I envied her courage, and her ability to withstand judgment and still smile throughout the day. She seemed invincible to the worst treatments of society.
Taking a quick break from reading, I looked at my phone and checked the time. It was around six in the afternoon now. Looking outside the window in front of me, I saw the trees zip by, the cars and people, all a blur of orange and greens. The sky had begun taking on a deep hue of orange. We were not downtown yet, so I wondered how long it would take for this bus to make the “round trip”. Eventually we took a turn, finally stopping our insanely long straightway trip. We were downtown.
At this point, I noticed that everybody had gotten off the bus except me. Only the driver and I were in there at this hour. Finally, as I was nearing the end of one my paragraphs, the bus stopped and she pointed her finger to the door, looking at me. “Last stop, you’ve got to get off,” she stated. I was astonished. It wouldn’t be making a round trip. I thanked her anyway, stunned, and got off. The bus drove away, leaving me in the dust. Now I started to panic. My phone had 10% battery power left. I hurriedly stopped the music from playing, as it was draining the life out of my phone. I madly began texting my mother to pick me up on Third and Santa Clara, where my friends and I usually ate at an interesting little place called Smoke Eater’s (which served great hot wings by the way). The trip seemed so far away. Worst of all, my wallet had four dollars. Four dollars! I also had my minors’ driving license in my wallet. What help would that do? I didn’t have a car here! So I began to walk. I walked one way down this desolate little lonely curb. There were apartments touching the clouds to both sides of the road, a light rail in the middle going underground and big people with blurred faces walking here and there. I was in unknown territory. My eyes began to water, and I nearly cried. I was powerless here, absolutely powerless! No one could help now, not even my parents. I looked up at the sky and swore out loud, my voice echoing off the walls, but going silent immediately afterwards, because some residents still had their windows open. The sky was getting dark, nearing seven now. I reached the end of the curb and saw several other buses, buses that came here to stop from where I had started my accidental journey into the unknown. I turned around and began walking faster, at a brisk pace, my hands madly swinging to and fro as I held onto my textbooks tightly. I knew what I would do. I walked to the streetlight, crossed the street, and made a left. I saw the familiar sign that read “Third” and I would have literally jumped for joy had the girl to the right of me not come out of her apartment on an orange bicycle. I even had this urge to tell her about my situation, just to relieve myself, but I repressed it. I began walking, faster now, so that I could get to Smoke Eater’s. I kept looking left and right as I walked, for that telltale sign of a firefighter within a neon sign. Instead, I came to a small street that was covered with trees. A couple meters away there was a bus stop and a bench. I examined it a little closer and saw that it read seventy-two, and that the buses lead to Senter and Monterey. I calmed down, my heart rate slowing now. Four dollars was more than enough to get me back home. I texted my mother to not come pick me up, as I would be able to get home myself now. This surely was it.
I sat down once more and waited, shortly before a bus came. I was the first one to get on, and greeted the old white male inside happily. He looked like something of a train conductor, with his cap and white mustache. Inserting my money, I sat down once more in the same seat up front to the right. The bus moved forward. I relaxed. The time was now 7:10, as the LED read on the bus. He stopped to pick up some passengers, and the lights came on inside. It felt brighter now. Even the people coming aboard seemed less hostile and more familiar. They looked like people that I would meet at school or at a workplace. Ordinary citizens, just like me, I smiled to myself. The bus began passing into the heart of downtown San Jose, past businesses, and metropolitan areas. The hustle and bustle of the city came alive with its lights, people, and restaurants livening up the place. It reminded me of the scenes I had envisioned while reading The Great Gatsby and the smell of upbeat jazz and lights in the atmosphere. Once more I watched as tall buildings and colors flew by. Looking out of the bus’ own glass windows, I saw that inside certain buildings, there were glass windows which made up the entire outside wall itself, and could see the people inside socializing and having a good time. The orange lamps, red Chinese lanterns, green lights, colored walls, car headlights, and moonlight illuminated the faces of every living and breathing thing standing. It felt like a moving painting.
We finally made it out of downtown San Jose and began making our way to Senter and Monterey. Now everything was becoming familiar again. Everything seemed so much less surprising now. We passed by several intersections that my parents often drove through. The marching of cars and drumming of horns on the road played along as the white giant made its way through the streets. I looked out the window and saw that the blue had begun breaking the horizon. It was now 7:50.
After ten minutes of straight driving, we neared the corner and began making a turn. It was now or never. I would not make the same mistake again. I saw the bus sign several hundred feet away and looked up behind me. The cord was there, smiling and telling me to pull it. I did so, and a triumphant ding was heard as the automated female voice over the audio speaker and red LED board said, “Stop Requested”. The bus, now lit up white with fluorescent photons, came to a halt. I grabbed my items and stood up, and began making my way to the door. I thanked the driver and looked once more at the passengers aboard the bus. I smiled at the nice humans, not as dangerous as I thought, and walked down the stairs onto the sidewalk onto the hard familiar pavement and into the night breeze. As I looked back behind me, I could hear the doors closing with a hissing sound as the pistons locked into place. The bus moved forward once more, with its passengers still inside looking out the windows in wonder, stopping for no one. I watched as the bus went on and on down the road until it became nothing more than a blurry white square with glowing red dots and heard the sound of the engine fade into the darkness. I looked at my phone and the sky. It was now eight twenty. What beautiful stars there were in that dark blue sky. I will never forget the day that I walked across the street and took a journey through life and back to my house, in all its familiar warmth, its tattered walls, imperfect lawn, and overgrown trees, back into the comfort and embrace of the people who knew me that day, before, after, and forever.
(c) Tony Tran. :)