Eventually after my six months probation was up, and I don’t use the word eventually lightly it truly seemed that I had been at Attica for so long that the world I lived in before no longer existed, I got on the bus to work as usual knowing that today was the day I should be getting my contract. There was some relief in this as it meant that for the first time I would be confident that I could honour my rental agreement and pay the council tax.
The bus started off like normal. It pulls in, I step on, show my pass and find that there are no seats. There never are by this stop. I sat with my mouth sat in a straight line. Eyes forward, staring through a hand sized gap between two men's shoulders who had the misfortune to be on this sticky, damp bus at seven twenty am on a Monday morning in February. I never looked at the faces of the men anymore. I am too nervous that they may notice the unplucked hair in my mole, or the un-straightened hair of the slight stain on the cuff of my cardigan. I am nervous that the horror in their eyes might stop my heart dead.
And that's where I fit in to the scheme of things, self consciously forcing my gaze to a spot where I know it wont meet anyone's eye. This bus is unique, it is the one and only service that runs to where I work, Attica, corporate financial planning, a number factory. Only people at Attica use the service all the way, the only others get off on the outskirts of town. I recognise every face of every passenger. The drivers rotate to regularly that I must have said 'thank you' twenty times or more to each one.
I am the spoke of the wheel that clicks into place each time the earth rotates upon its axis. I am the unkempt, unfathomable, Lexi, office monkey, avid reader of books, five foot seven, dark hair, blues eyes, likes pubbing, clubbing, cosy nights in, long walks, employee number P8008135.
Seven twenty, following day. There are tiny blue cracks in the sky as I shuffle onto the bus, flash my pass and hope in vain for a smile of hint of recognition from the driver. No seats. I strategically position myself near the seat of a man I know gets off at the next stop before the rest of my Attica colleagues jump on and we trail off to the middle of no-where.
Seat scabbed. I wriggle awkwardly into the chair, no large movements, draw no attention to myself. I find my staring point easily this morning, the tiny white logo on a dark green adventure style backpack. The king they sell for camping that men love to carry their packed lunch to the office in. Eyes fixed I was just wondering why people always profess to liking pubbing and clubbing when they meet new people. I always say it, yet I hate it.
Just then some strange unknowable force made me look up and against all habit and caution look around my fellow passengers above and beyond the usual furtive panicked glances, darting from face to face in the horrible suspicion that I had a cornflake stuck to my lip, but slowly and calmly, seeking out the details of their faces. What I mostly saw was the partings in their hair, they all kept their heads down looking broken and terrified they may have a cornflake on their lip!
If they were laughing I would have been prepared, looking mild disgust I would have been relieved. Even their indifference didn't bother me but what rattled the core of my being was that they were all as insignificant and messed up in their own way as me. Lost in their headphones, newspapers and books, they were cogs too. The universe had flipped, I swallowed hard and flicked my eyes back to the tiny, white logo of snow peeked mountains on dark green, allowing it to burn into my retinas as I tried somehow to turn my face back from the glowing red it had become and come to terms with my revelation.