Desperately searching for words, for something, for anything to say, I wracked my brains, until I slipped back into the old familiar thinking of all humans, our inability to live in the present, to be constantly looking to the future and what the next big thing might be. Now wearing the mindset we all cast on so easily, I uttered those fateful words: “when are you getting off?”
“The Victory Centre,” she replied, “though I’m not too sure when the stop is.”
I turned around, and much like Orpheus, I damned myself in doing so. The 49 was and still is the bus I take most often, and I know the route like the back of my hand. Despite my terrible eyesight, I could see the bus was about to finish its detour through Firhouse, meaning the Victory Centre would be the very next stop. I sighed, and turned back to face her.
“It’s the next stop,” I said, with a half-smile, half-grimace.
“Thank you,” she said, and jumped up, ukelele still in hand. Right then, it felt like all the light had been sapped from the day. The bright smile of the past quarter hour had been twisted into a demented, anguish-stricken howl. The moment had passed, never to be repeated again, and I felt as though this darkness would be all that remained in my life. This wild and wondrous flame had used up all its energy in a brilliant and illuminating spectacle of hope and happiness; and that energy would never be replaced.
Luckily, I couldn’t have been more wrong. She walked down the aisle towards the exit, accidentally bumping into a man wearing a white suit in the standing area. She pressed the button and a bell rang, just as the bus rounded the corner. As it started to slow to a halt, she started singing and playing again, waltzing right past the driver to alight. I waited for the bus to move again before looking out the window, and I saw her, strolling down the path, still full of music and delight, still singing, still playing. I couldn’t hear her words, though through the mist of vision, I could see her lips move, still declaiming her happiness unto the world.
She eventually faded from sight, but I didn’t mind. My joy was restored, my last image of this young woman being the most perfect I could imagine. I last saw her playing, and even now, I imagine her doing just that. Randomly wandering whatever street she comes by, her destination fixed but temporary, letting the music guide her, bring her where she is needed. I lost sight of her but still I smiled, and packed my violin away. The moment was lost in reality but in my mind it lives on.
I still have no idea what the hell happened that day. It mightn’t even have been real, just a figment of my imagination, brought on by innumerable new stresses to my life, and my brain’s way of easing those worries. Maybe the young woman never existed, and the older woman only looked confused because I kept staring at her. The nail in the coffin there would have been me taking out the violin. After all, the little girl only came up after I started to play. Maybe the young woman never existed, and I’m completely mad.
My family and friends, after I told them of the incident, were completely baffled. Some wondered if she was high; others only wanted to know if I got her number. Everyone asked the same question, imprecise as it was: “what the hell?” But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if I was mad or stressed, or if the woman was high or imaginary, or even all four at once. I’m not looking for an explanation. I’m only looking to remember.
See, when I finally got off at my stop, and began the short journey from the church to my house, I began to consider the long and twisted path that had brought me to that time and place. All those little factors that led me to the back of a bus where there was no logic; where up was down, left was right, and two people could have an entire conversation through music. Adele, WiFi, unfitness, faulty websites and laziness. Small, unremarkable incidents leading to an only slightly bigger incident. A moment of simple pleasure, and joy at being alive. An ordinary bus journey turned extraordinary, when I least expected it.
With my mind frothing to comprehend the madness of that journey, a film was thrown from the chaos to the forefront of my memory. A film I hadn’t expected to be great, but turned out to be brilliant. And from that film a single quote rang in my head:
“Rule 32: Enjoy the little things”
With that in mind, I walked home, wearing a smile I have yet to take off.