by EMILIAN WOJNOWSKI
M by Alexander Mueller | Flickr
Life is like traveling by bus. We get on and off it at different stops—sometimes at those we don't want to, not necessarily due to absent-mindedness—and the further we go, the more we pay. Sometimes we get stuck in traffic jams, join wrong passengers, or lose tickets. Or the bus does not come.
The above thinking occurred to me at… a bus stop. Thoughts then are mosquitoes, and heads—if free of problems, social media, and music—are camping lanterns.
It was windy, so I sat under a shelter. I was simply waiting, with my hands in my pockets and my head leaned on a rolled-up viscose scarf.
After a look around and a few smog breaths, I thought to myself that the street lights were washing that evening away for a few pedestrians only. I don't really remember what I thought next. Nothing odd about that, yeah. But in my mind—I guess I put it badly that “I don’t really remember”—this spot is filled with some white liquid. Not with emptiness nor blackness, because I remember my every move—every lift of my finger—after having sat on the bench. There is just a white hole in me. Or rather a bulge that can’t be pressed in and filled.
(But recently I have thought to myself that, for example, no one at the bus stop would pay attention to someone eating peanuts; but everyone would look at someone eating peanut butter like at a fool. And the same would be with strawberries and jam. But not necessarily with grapes and wine.)
So, I was sitting on the bench, hunched-up, occasionally closing my eyes and listening to a bus coming. I was looking forward to the warmth canned in it, which after the first stops, as I knew, would make me feel nauseous.
I often come home late at night, with no headphones on, no smartphone in my hand. I plunge into thoughts that advance on a bus.
On a bus filled with tired citizens, I realize: waking up passengers at the last stop is part of the driver's job. On a crowded bus: deodorant manufacturers should stop guaranteeing that their products provide forty-eight-hour protection. On a quiet bus: street fights between the homeless could be set for little money.
But let's get back to waiting at the bus stop. I stretched out my legs and curled them back immediately so that nobody accused me of trying to make a passer-by trip over. It was also helpful while waiting to look at passing cars. So I did. One pair of beams, another, another.
I felt the plank I was sitting on bend, widened my eyes, and looked to the side. First shyly, then I turned my head.
A kid. His legs were swinging and his hands were holding on to the plank bench as if it were a start bar. He had Velcro shoes and a frayed pompom of a hat tied under his chin.
“Waiting for a bus?” he asked.
It took me a while to make sure he had said it to me.
“That’s right.” I felt weird about some boy trying to talk to me.
“Are you an adult?”
When a stranger starts asking me, or any introvert like me, about something unexpectedly, it is enough to make me think for the next couple of hours whether the answer I gave was correct, simple, and clear. I will be feeling the wheels of some imaginary dialogue turning in my head.
“Yes,” I said. For him I might have been an adult, as for most of society, but not for myself. I don't think I will ever be an adult.
“That's what I thought.”
“Really?” I sensed that he would soon ask me to buy him something that he couldn’t.
“Yeah.” The boy neared his hands to his frozen thighs. “Here.” He pulled out his little fist.
“Here.” He opened his fist. “Take it.”
“Thank you.” I looked at the candy CIUT. “I'll eat it later.”
He nodded, and then smacked his lips, pushing a candy with his tongue from one cheek to another.
I should not have taken that candy, but it would have been awkward if I hadn’t. Now he would want something from me in exchange.
“You have no family,” he said.
“Wife and children?”
“Not that kind of family.”
“So you have no superpowers.”
“I don't, you?”
“I'm not an adult.” He chewed on the candy. “Nor a parent.”
“Parents have superpowers?” I asked.
“Guess I have to agree with you,” I said, having thought about my parents.
It happens sometimes that a stranger devours our minds with one sentence. Not necessarily the minds of introverts. And that's what I am getting at from the very beginning. Some words make up such strong sentences that every now and then I dream of witnessing a car accident—a car accident around which naked people are dancing and singing kumbaya, as if they were to summon an ancient demon—just to forget what I’ve just heard.
“What about your parents’ superpowers?” I asked and began to regret it.
“My parents’ superpowers?”
“Dad—well—hmm. I know what kind of superpowers my mom has.”
“So?” I asked out of courtesy. I shouldn't have.
“I can only—” he began, and that made me feel all warm inside, “I can only eat candies.”
“That's why I don't have as much strength as my mom.”
“I don't understand,” I said.
To the considerations at the very beginning, I can only add that we too often forget that not everyone is ready to take a bus. And that some should not be let in. And that not everyone can afford a ticket.
The bus pulled up and I hopped in.
“My mom can eat sugar with her nose,” the boy said.
Who has the superpower to tell him? My bus had already left.
God, who will tell him?
the girl I like to wait with at a stop
Emilian Wojnowski comes from another planet, which is why he feels bad on Earth. There are a few things he knows how to do: putting letters in the right order (in several languages) is one of them. A philologist and translator by education, a hobbit by nature and appearance. He is constantly looking for peace, lost time, and books. Emilian has never drunk alcohol but fears the future. Follow Emilian on Instagram: @emilian.milo