Randy got on the first bus he saw. He didn’t care where it was headed. He just wanted to go wherever it took him. Just like his life at this point, feeling like a rudderless ship in the ocean.
He pulled out his metro card and inserted it in the slot. The bus driver, an overweight friendly old man with thick grey hair and beard, smiled at him welcomingly. He looked familiar, but he could not quite place it. “He could play Santa”, Randy thought. “He certainly fits the bill”.
There weren’t many people in the bus at this time of the night. He grabbed a window seat. A young woman with a baby in a stroller boarded and sat across him. The toddler saw him and giggled in excitement. It brought a smile to his face, which seemed like after a long time. The mother, however, was lost in thought. She seemed young, but her face revealed sufferings and maturity beyond her age.
His mind wandered aimlessly, loathing in self-pity. At the next stop, a shabbily dressed man in thick glasses and wearing a smelly parka got in and sat next to him. “Hello!” the man said. Randy politely acknowledged. He opened a bag of Hershey’s chocolates and offered him one. “No, thanks” Randy refused. “Cute girl” he said of the baby across him and gave her one. “ga..gga..” she accepted it gratefully in her baby language.
“Life is like a box of chocolates” he said, munching one. Randy looked at him quizzically. “Forrest Gump?” he replied. “Haven’t you seen the movie?” Randy nodded. He was in no mood for conversation, and went back to peering across the window watching the street lights pass by.
“You know, everything follows a pattern – including your getting on this bus and my sitting next to you. It may look like a chance happening, but it is not”, the man continued. Randy tried not to pay attention.
“Look at that young woman and her child. The little girl seems to like you” he smiled, pointing at her. “da.. da..”, the baby was giggling and waving her hands in excitement. The mother, however, remained solemn and was staring elsewhere. The baby was now pulling her mother’s handbag, with the leather strap firmly in her mouth, using it as her teether.
“She is going through a lot, you know” the man continued referring to the woman, “You’re not the only one going through a bad patch” Randy felt a bit irritated. Yes, he was upset with life, and whatever happened to him just wasn’t fair, regardless of what the woman was experiencing. He just wanted to be alone, and this stranger kept bugging him.
“Yes son, everything happens for a reason – including your wife cheating on you, and your divorce, however painful it may be now”
Randy was puzzled and angry. “How did you know..?” he asked. He had never seen this man before. And certainly not many knew about what happened to him.
“Listen, this is my stop” the man said as the bus came to a halt. “But we will meet again. Why don’t you drop by some time? I live not far from here. There is more I’d like to talk to you about” he said, handing him his card. “Remember, Randy, when bad things happen to good people, they become better people” he said, and got off the bus before he could ask him how he knew his name.
Next stop. The mother and the baby got off, along with the rest of the passengers. It was now just him and the driver in the bus. The driver smiled at him from the rear view mirror. “Long day?” he asked. Randy nodded, now thinking about what the thick-glassed man said, and of the woman and her baby.
“Okay my friend, this is the last stop! I guess you want to get down here!” The driver said as he pulled over at the terminus. Randy nodded and got up. He noticed that the driver, despite his big smile was now in some sort of discomfort.
He checked the time. 11:59 PM. He realized that he hadn’t had dinner yet. His stomach was grumbling and he was feeling tired. As he was about to step out of the bus –