Word from Fido: So, seeing as I haven't uploaded a oneshot in a very long time, I thought I'd offer you guys this little piece I wrote for Creative Writing Class. It's a quick read, and for once it's not a romance. Altough, I do find that there is a very poignant chemistry between the girl and the man. I hope you guys enjoy it, and Happy New Year's to everyone!
I don't usually swear. I think it makes people look like uneducated primates and I've been told countless times by my parents that I was much better than that. Funnily enough, it didn't stop me from mumbling my entire arsenal of curses as I shuffled along the sidewalk. My car had broken down, deciding that it was taking a break on this wonderfully crappy October morning. This meant that, for the first time in my existence, I was forced to take the public bus. Oh, the things I did to get to University.
A white speck materialized at the very end of the sidewalk. Clutching my purse to myself against the stinging autumn wind, I broke into a sprint. Dark strands bounced into my eyes and I could practically hear my mother chastise me:
"My God, you'd think that with such good grades you'd have the sense to cut your hair in an appropriate fashion"
I gritted my teeth and hurried towards the approaching dot. Missing the bus at that moment would have been the cherry on top of the pile of garbage. Maybe some saint finally decided to take pity on me, for the bus waited and I hobbled in.
I ducked my head, avoiding the eyes of the people already in the vehicle. My plan was to shuffle along to the back and hopefully find a seat by the time I got there. The bus was packed, though, and I highly doubted my chances. I didn't even get past the first row of people. Someone grabbed my wrist and spun me around.
"Hey, where have you... Crap, you're not her."
My heart had constricted in fear; all of the horror stories that I had ever heard concerning buses rushed through my mind. My arm was then released and I slowly calmed down. The one responsible for nearly giving me a heart attack currently scratched his cheek, visibly as uncomfortable as I was.
He was tall, for one thing. Long tendrils of dark hair curled lazily down to his shoulders. His green coat looked like it was a gazillion years old and was covered with dirt. The hand that wasn't occupied with his face held a thick book. A silver cross the size of my foot hung from his neck. He stopped scratching his cheek, which was covered in stubble, and ran his hand through his hair, revealing smoky grey eyes. His face twisted into something that might have been a sheepish smile, except that it looked painful. The bus started moving with a great lurch and I realized that I had been studying this stranger for longer than necessary. Appropriately, I proceeded to stare at my shoes gain.
"I'm sorry," he finally said in a rumbling baritone. He sounded like some Quebecker, his accent slipping in between syllables. "I thought you were someone else."
I shrugged and mumbled a "no problem" that he probably didn't even hear. I let my eyes trail back up until they met the book in his hand.
"Hey, you read Nietzsche?" I asked before I could stop myself.
His imposing eyebrows shot up and he made a sound that could have been interpreted as "huh?" He eventually followed my glance to the book and he shook his head.
"No, no, he's way too smart for me. This is my... friend's, I guess."
I nodded and returned to staring at my shoes. An awkward silence settled between us. After a while, he shuffled, making a small space between the mass of people. I mumbled a 'thank you' and slipped in. Now that I had stopped freaking out, I realized that soft music was playing. It would almost have made for a cozy atmosphere if the bus didn't smell like burnt rubber. I spent the rest of the ride admiring the various ads covering every inch of the interior. My favourite one being for some weird cigarette-quitting club. Their slogan worried me: "Believe in Darwin: cancer cures smoking!"
The bus stopped with a great screech and the University buildings loomed over us. With a sigh, I shouldered my purse and shambled my way to the exit. Only after the bus started to roll away did I think about thanking the man. The bus, however, was already gone by that time and I figured I'd never see him again anyway.
The next morning, I learned that most people who take the bus in the morning make it a habit to do so. I bit my lip as I surveyed the crowd. The man was still standing in the same spot, Nietzsche book tucked under his arm. I managed a small smile and he managed something that I'd seen bears do before they attacked. I placed myself next to him and spent the next thirty minutes agonizing about my international business management class, while Gloria Gaynor set a nice mood over the speakers. The bus stopped and I hopped off without a word to the man.
On Wednesday I stomped my way down the aisle to the man. He moved aside and stared at me as I fumed. I tried to meet his glance with my fiercest, angriest glare, but I ended up giving the evil eye to my shoes instead. I felt a slight tremor against my arm and I wondered if he was laughing.
"Someone's having a bad morning," he said.
"Someone has a statistics class this morning," I clipped back.
He grunted something that I couldn't possibly decipher and we settled in silence. He broke it just as Johnny Cash erupted in a solo.
"So, what program are you in?" I lifted my eyes from my shoes at the sound of his scratchy voice. "At University, I mean."
"International financing," I replied automatically, absentmindedly.
"Don't you look thrilled." His sarcasm made me frown. He noticed my expression and snorted. "Please, you don't think I know what it's like to hate school?"
"Oh, and what program are you in?" I meant it to sound bitchy and superior, but it lacked any real strength.
He shook again, and I realized he really was laughing. "I dropped high school five years ago."
He didn't add anything after that and I resumed my shoe watching. Johnny Cash faded to Michael Bublé. "University costs what... six grands a year these days?" he scratched his cheek. "Why would you pay that and not even like it?"
"My parents are paying," I muttered. "I'll take classes I like when I can afford them."
"How old are you, seventeen?" he asked.
"Aren't you old enough to make your own decisions? Stick by them?"
"Says the dropout," I whispered to myself.
If he heard me, he pretended to ignore me. "And what would you do if you could afford it?" he asked instead.
"Photography," I said breathlessly, smiling as the word caressed my mouth on its exit.
The bus stopped and I walked off. I stared at it until it rounded the corner. The man stared back.
Two weeks passed by and, though my car got fixed and agreed to start in the morning, I still took the bus. The man was always there, rooted to the spot.
"Here, two creams and a gazillion sugar." I handed him his coffee, sipping my own. His face contorted into an imitation of Freddie Krueger and I grinned back. "So, I think I finally figured out what your job is." He croaked something in his coffee and I took his invitation to continue. "Secret agent." He snorted and I threw my hands in the air. "Well, either that or you're a hobo!" He actually looked hurt and I shrugged. "Hey, if you washed your hair more often...No offence."
"I have naturally greasy hair. It's genetics. Got it from my mum's side. God bless her soul." We sipped our coffee. "So... did you change programs yet?" The urge to kick his shin flitted across my brain but I squeezed my coffee cup instead. "Don't you glare at me like that, young lady. I bug because I care."
"Shut up," I groaned.
"I'm a janitor," he told me. I eyed him warily.
"You look like a janitor," I said.
"I wanted to be a firefighter. But you need to go to college to be a firefighter, and you need to stick through high school to go to college. I didn't like school. People thought I was stupid. I didn't like that. So I quit; told myself that they could all shove it. You're lucky, you're a smart girl. But I ain't so smart, and now I'm a janitor. Everyone still thinks I'm too stupid to do anything more." He took a great gulp of coffee and wiped his mouth on his sleeve, getting some on his book. "And how are you gonna feel when you're this great businesswoman on the front page of every finance magazine wishing that she was the one taking the pictures instead of starring in them?"
When I got off the bus that day, I waved maybe just a bit longer to the man. Then, instead of going to business management 201, I headed to the orientation office.
"I did it!" I told him the next day, thrusting a ridiculous amount of papers in his hands. "These are all the courses I'm planning to take, the clubs I can join..."
He whistled and I simpered at that simple praise. He patted my head once and flipped through the documents. White Snake played above us, a welcome soundtrack to my success.
"How'd you get your mum to agree to this?" he asked.
I ducked my head instantly, fidgeting on the spot. He growled and I lifted my shoulders against my neck, like a dog raising his hackles.
"I'll tell her," I stumbled through the excuse. "I will, really. I just need to find the right time, you know. Catch her in the right mood..."
"What you need is to stop being such a coward."
"Right!" I snapped. "I need to stop being a coward; I need to 'follow my dreams'. You take the bus every day to go mop some floors! So, if you don't mind, I'll stop being a coward when you stop being such a hypocrite."
We glared at each other and the woman sitting next to us looked decidedly uncomfortable. He grunted and kept scanning the papers in his hands. I crossed my arms and read the ads on the walls, even if by now I knew all of them by heart. When the bus stopped, he handed my pile back to me. He squeezed my shoulder.
"You'll do good, kid."
I walked off the bus and waved after him, like every day. The papers slipped from my hands and spread on the ground. I sighed and bent down to pick them up. That's when I noticed the book. That old grouch must have forgot it and handed it to me with my papers. It was open and my eye caught a highlighted sentence.
Do whatever you will, but first be such as are able to will.
I sighed again and rolled my eyes to the sky. When I finished gathering my things, I reached into my purse and grabbed my phone. "C'mon, before I lose my guts," I whispered to it as I dialled. I settled it against my ear and trudged towards the Art Faculty.
"Hey, mom? Yeah, are you busy right now? There's something I'd like to talk to you about..."
The next day, the man wasn't there. The bus looked empty without him, though there were still as many people. I stood in his spot, feeling like some trespasser. Shania Twain whined and the music did nothing to fill the space next to me. The bus started rolling. It suddenly braked and the doors opened to let some guy in. He mumbled some apology to the driver. His hands were shoved in his jacket pockets as he skittered down the aisle, muttering 'excuse me's left and right. He paused when he passed by me. His eyebrows climbed up his forehead.
"You read Nietzsche?" he asked me excitedly.
I hugged the book against my chest. "No, no. He's way too cynical for me." I felt my lips curl up and shrugged. "It's my friend's."
He nodded and I stepped aside. He grinned, obviously relieved, and settled himself next to me. The spot didn't feel so empty anymore.
The bus rolled on.