Chloe N. Clark
Where is Your Destination, What is Your Plan
The bus pulled up and I got on it. Busy checking my phone, I didn’t realize until we’d pulled away that it wasn’t my normal route. I took the 7 or, on occasion, the 9, but this was the 11. Never had minded seeing the places I lived, so I thought I might as well stick out the ride and see where I ended up.
There were twelve or so other passengers and each of them looked a little confused, like they all had realized the same thing as me. Maybe it was a bus that rarely made the rounds and was doing someone else’s shift or something. One woman, in her twenties and styling posh-like, went up the aisle to the front of the bus.
“Um, excuse me?”
The bus driver nodded, once, curt, but didn’t say anything. The driver was dressed all in black, not the normal outfits of the city’s buses. Funny I hadn’t noticed that.
“Well, um, I think I may have gotten on the wrong bus and I was wondering which direction you were going in?” she said. She seemed to be having trouble looking at the driver’s face as she spoke, like it was ghastly or something, which, of course, made me want to get up and check it out.
“Where are you headed?” the driver asked. His voice wasn’t what I expected and it made me think the driver wasn’t a he. Though, the voice didn’t quite sound feminine either. It sounded…Other.
“To Bircham Heights?” the woman said.
“I go there,” the driver responded.
The woman seemed to have decided that she’d pushed her luck already, so she mumbled a thanks, and went back to her seat. Taking out her phone, she stared at the screen frowning for a long moment.
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
She looked up at me, startled. “Just lost signal. I never lose signal.”
I looked down at my phone. No signal. It was unnerving, not that I ever got calls from anywhere but work. Still it was nice to know that you had a phone if you needed it. “Me neither.”
The woman turned to peer out the bus window, nervously. Outside it was going to full on darkness, how had it gotten so late already? My reflection in the window across from me flickered. The city looked like a stranger at night.
A ding sounded. Someone had pulled the stop request cord. The bus slowed to a stop. An older man made his way up the aisle. He paused at the driver, turning to say something and then the old man’s mouth opened but no sound came out. He looked like he was staring at his own ghost.
“Yes, sir?” the driver asked.
“H-how?” the old man said.
“Where are you headed, sir?”
The old man shook his head, trying to ease his mind of whatever it carried. “I’m headed home.”
“And what are you going to do at home?” the driver asked. Such an odd question.
“I…” the old man began. He took a breath in and then continued, “I’d really like to make dinner for my wife.”
“That sounds like a plan, sir. You have a nice night.” The driver pressed the button that released the bus door. The old man took one look back and then stepped off the bus. The look on the old man’s face was something close to the expression you see on the face of saints when they’re in their ecstatic states. When I was young, Ma took me to church often because I so loved the stain glass pictures. She taught me the names of the saints. I used to know them all, would recite them before bed. My rosary of sorts. Maybe if I had remembered them still then things in my life would have worked out better. Maybe there would have been no accident.
The bus began to move again. The darkness grew closer around us. I could barely see anything out there. Someone pulled the request cord again. Ding. The bus slowed to a stop. A woman and her three children went up the aisle. The mother looked tired, shopping bags clutched in her hands and her young ones holding each other’s hands. It seemed like they all, even the tiniest one, had the process down cold.
At the front of the bus, all of them stared at the bus driver.
“D—” the little one began.
“Shh…” the mother said. Her hand went to the child’s shoulder. She had a soft voice. Lovely that.
“And where are you going?” the driver asked.
“Home now,” the mother said.
The driver nodded. “And what will you do?”
“I’d like for the whole family to sit down to a meal and then maybe watch a movie,” she said. Her emphasis on the word “whole” was so filled with ache that I could hardly stand it.
“And so you shall,” the driver said, releasing the door. The family left. I thought of my own family, then. How we had gone for trips together, how much we had laughed. The jokes we shared together that no one else understood. I could feel the want for them deep in my stomach. Our house on the hill. When walking home from school, I used to see our light on and it was such a sense of peace that came over me.
I pulled the stop request cord. Ding. I wanted off the bus before I started crying, making a show of myself. I went up the aisle.
The driver was my Ma and when she turned she was my Dad as well and my sister and they were there again. They were returned to me whole. I couldn’t say anything.
“Where are you headed?” the driver asked me. The voice was all of their voices.
“H-home,” I whispered.
My sister smiled. My mother’s eyes crinkled in the corners. My father nodded. “And what will you do there?”
“I’ll be happy,” I said. It was the truest thing I’ve ever said.
“And so you shall,” the driver said.
The door opened behind me. I stepped out into the dark. In the distance, a light had been left on for me.