Categories > Original > Drama

Salvation: The Bus

by ariad 0 reviews

It's early morning- as early as morning can be without slipping back into night- when he boards the bus and sits in the very back, wondering if he'll change his mind. He hopes that he will.

Category: Drama - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Angst - Published: 2007-03-01 - Updated: 2007-03-02 - 1290 words - Complete

Salvation: The Bus
By Ariad
January 26, 2007

It's early morning- as early as morning can be without slipping back into night- when he boards the bus and sits in the very back, wondering if he'll change his mind. He hopes that he will.


"What are you doing up so early, son?"

"Just felt like riding the bus."

"There isn't usually a bus this early."

"Just today?"

"It's like it knew you'd be waiting there."

He breathes into the cold glass as the old bus driver chuckles. The imperfection of the window fogs, hiding the heart etched here and the initials etched there. Then the fog fades, and the heart and the initials return, permanent. Sometimes hidden, but never completely gone. He traces the letters with his finger and wonders if it's like love.

For some people.


The sun does its best to shine in a bleak winter sky when the next passenger finally arrives. The passenger is a suited woman carrying a briefcase, likely on her way to the office. More men and women with suits and briefcases file into the bus. Some wear glasses. Others are listening to music. Some are Caucasian, Chinese, black. Others are Indian, Mexican, Korean. All are variations of the same theme.

He wonders how many others were like him, and he pulls his satchel into his lap as one of the variations takes the seat beside him.


By late morning, the bus is empty again. A woman boards with her baby. When the baby begins to cry and scream, she takes it in her arms and shushes it lovingly. She looks up at him helplessly and apologizes. He doesn't tell her that he envies the baby. The woman leaves soon after, and he is alone with the bus driver again.


"Having a good time back there?"

"People are interesting."

"Yeh, I see a lot of different people on my route. Happy people, sad people, people who need help but don't know how to ask for it."

He stares hard into the back of the driver's head.

"So what's your story?"

"Not much to tell, really."

"Ever fall in love? I get a lot of those."

"Married a girl once. Hh, she left me."

"Rough. But you're still young, son. Life goes on."

Sometimes. He closes his eyes and wishes the bus driver weren't so friendly.


The afternoon passes slowly, so he decides to get some sleep.

He dreams of the teacups on the table, and he remembers. He'd returned to the apartment early that day to surprise her because it was the first anniversary of their marriage. In his dream, he sees the teacups wrapped beautifully in ribbon on the table and sets his satchel down next to them. He thinks they must be an anniversary gift. He opens the card and reads it. "To Simone, my love." He, in his naïveté, thinks it must be a joke.

He decides to ask her about it and finds her in the bedroom- beneath another man. He stops. His lungs tighten, and his muscles stiffen. He watches them until they are finished. Then she finally notices him. She gasps a piercing, stabbing gasp that strikes into the heart of him, and she asks, "What are you doing home so early?"

"It's our anniversary," he tells her, face blank and voice empty.

She and the other man both look shocked.


He awakens from the memory, and it is early evening. There are a few passengers on the bus with him, and more are entering through the automatic doors.

A couple takes the seats in front of him, hands linked, and he remembers how he still loved her and how he forgave her and how he knew that she still slept with the other man. For a whole year, it continued until their anniversary arrived for the second time.

That day, he'd returned to the apartment early again but had stopped before entering the bedroom. He could hear them inside. Instead, he'd sat at the kitchen table, trying to read the newspaper but finding that the words all blurred and ran together. She'd exited the bedroom, wearing only her translucent negligee, and had seen him there.

She'd said, "Oh, it's you. I don't think we should see each other anymore."

As if they hadn't been married. His heart had, in that moment, collapsed.


It is late evening. Now passengers are seated on both sides of him. He thinks it might be time. He scans the bus once more to be sure. Yes, all the seats are filled.

He stands, and he carefully makes his way to the front of the bus.

"Better sit down while the bus is moving, son."

He reaches into his satchel and extracts his gun. He raises it, and he fires. Once.


They scream. Everybody screams, it seems, but the driver never once falters from his route. He's glad; the last thing he needs is to topple over as the bus swerves. It almost feels as if the driver is still supporting him.

"Everybody down! Now!" he yells. His voice is loud, threatening, strange. The gun is pointed at the people now, and they crawl under the seats, sobbing, frightened. Men and women and children. Young lovers. Old grandmothers. A girl who can't be more than eight years old. His gun is pointed at them. They think he's going to kill them.

Maybe he is. He hasn't decided yet. Any plans he'd had before are banished from his mind by the fear on their faces. It's all improvisation now.

The bus comes to a stop.

"I didn't say to stop, old man!" He turns, with the slightest pang of regret, to point his gun at the driver, but the driver isn't there. He turns back to the people. "Where are you, old man?"

The driver doesn't show himself.

He fires into a seat. More screaming.

"If you don't show yourself in the next three seconds, someone's going to die!" He means it. "Three... two... one..."

All the memories surge at once. All the pain, all the lies, and the stupid idea that if he just loved her enough, she would stay with him, and that was all he'd wanted. He'd known she was a liar and a cheat, but he'd seen that she was sweet and beautiful and charming, and he'd really, truly loved her, and for all his love, he'd found that there was nothing more painful than love, but he can't let go.

The world slows as he raises the barrel of the gun to his temple. He has time to register amusement in how the people still look afraid, as if the gun were still pointed at them, before his finger moves on the trigger.

A hand grabs his wrist tight enough to hurt, tight enough to make him stop and look the bus driver in the eye.

"Don't do it, son."

"Let go, old man."

"This is not your stop."

For a moment, he only stares. Then he laughs at the double meaning, and he lets the driver take the gun from his hand, and he laughs, and he cries, and he screams, and he falls back onto the seat behind him, and he screams, and all the people on the bus listen to the screaming of a broken man. The driver stands before him and rests his withered hands upon the young shoulders, and he lets the tears of the broken man soak his garments because he understands with the sagacity of his years that a broken heart needs mending.

Finally, the sobs stop, and the mended man raises his head. He mouths, thank you. Then the police come to take him away, and he does not resist.

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