Daily routine was the thing that would have brought us together. Every day at 8 AM sharp I would board the bus at the terminal and stand idly at the aisle, ignoring all the empty seats, simply waiting. After exactly two stops I would finally move to sit behind him. He never saw me and thankfully he never noticed my eager glances in his direction.
I don’t know what made me look. Usually, I wouldn’t take notice of anyone; I liked to just listen to music and disconnect from the world during that short trip. One morning though I let my eyes wander carelessly through my surroundings and they ended up noticing the sketchbook owned by the passenger sitting right in front of me; empty at first, blank, but gradually filled by a pencil-drawn replica of our bus’ interior. My fellow passenger’s exact point of view etched in dark grey on a white sheet of paper: seats, people, building fronts passing us by outside the windows, the other passengers, always with their backs turned. Everything meticulously detailed.
I’m not sure why that fascinated me so: maybe I was projecting some form of deeper meaning where there was none other than someone passing time, but watching those sketches was like seeing the world through someone else’s eyes. That became a part of my morning routine as well and for days, weeks, months on end, I sat behind that artist on the bus, thinking about saying something, anything. I never did. Full months. If only I had known then.
It happened on a Monday, I remember that detail very clearly. I woke up with a terrible headache that morning, for no apparent reason, and considered staying home from work. I decided against it in the end and tried my hardest to take the bus at my usual time. I was very close to missing it. Don’t know if that would have made the whole thing better or worse. Once inside the bus, I went about my usual routine and took the seat behind the artist once he boarded. Everything else happened exactly as it usually did: the majority of the passenger distracted with their own thoughts, the artist making his daily sketch, and me watching the artist.
When the bus began to near the artist’s usual stop he left his seat to wait by the doors. From that moment on, at a point in our usual routine where nothing ever happened, several things happened in a quick succession: a sheet fell from the artist’s sketchbook, I picked up the sheet and left my seat with the intent of giving it back, I actually managed to take a few steps towards the doors, and then the world began to spin abruptly and out of control. In movies these things happen in slow motion, but this was far from it. One moment I was finally about to do something that months ago seemed almost physically impossible, the next I was jammed very uncomfortably amongst the bus seats. There was nothing in between one moment and the next: not the driver hitting the brakes, not even the crash itself, nothing. The last thing I remember, other than the siren from the ambulance, was realizing that my clenched fist was still firmly clinging to that sheet of paper, or more so to what it represented: a moment frozen in time, a question stuck in my throat left eternally unanswered.
My last bit of strength before slipping out of consciousness was spent on trying to focus on the loose page. The creases and the stains caused by my bloody hands gave the pencil-drawn bus a rather grim atmosphere. The sketch was almost the same as every morning’s only, this time, unlike our actual bus, there were no passengers; the sketch was the interior of an empty bus. I think I saw, but until this day I won’t cast aside the possibility that I simply imagined, my face in that morning’s sketch: reflected on the glass panel that separated the driver’s seat from the rest of the bus. By the time I awoke at the hospital someone had taken and discarded the stained and crumpled page. When I finally returned to the bus the artist was no longer there. I once again disconnected from the world.
Text written for my Creative Writing Class assignment and translated from Portuguese.