The bus comes at 7:43 on weekdays. I leave my house at 7:30 and arrive at the stop by 7:40 at the latest, depending on how long it take me to jaywalk across the main road.
There’s a convenience store next to the bus stop, a Family Mart. Sometimes I’ll wait inside because it’s much warmer in there than it is outside and I can check to see if the bus is coming from the window by the seating area. I see the same staff at the Family Mart every morning and I’m sure they recognize me by now – probably as that foreign girl who buys green tea and lingers in the seating area, who runs from the store at exactly 7:43.
There’s an elderly man who rides the 7:43 bus everyday too and boards at the same stop as me. He’s short and balding and limps on his left foot. He has a tired, weary look in his eyes and his breathing is heavy, like the air is weighing on his lungs. When he waits for the bus to come he stands a few feet off to the side, looking down at the sidewalk, as if he’s intrigued by something on the ground. I still don’t know what it is he’s looking at. He might not be looking at anything at all.
The bus is always full by the time it arrives at my stop – or, our stop (mine and the elderly man’s). Some days are worse than others; some days I need to shove my way on board just to squeeze myself in far enough for the door to close behind me. It’s like this on Mondays, which makes sense I suppose, since its the start of the work week. The bus is less packed as the week goes on. On a few Fridays, there have even been empty seats available. But that doesn’t happen often. I’m usually lucky to get a seat at all during the 20 minute bus ride.
For the most part, there are always the same kind of passengers on the bus – people on their way to work, students going to school. The students either sleep, sitting up, their heads lolling from side to side, or they study. I’ve seen some studying English before. I’m always tempted to comment on their homework, tell them the answers. But I never do – no one talks on the bus.
I don’t usually recognize the faces on the bus. But there are a few regulars – passengers I see everyday.
There’s this one girl, probably about my age. She gets on earlier than me and always stands at the very front beside the driver. When I get on we catch each other’s gaze and smile. Sometimes, she’ll wave at me too. I think of her and I wonder if you can call someone who you’ve never met a friend.
There’s a student who reminds me of my little brother. He has a baby face and glasses with frames that don’t balance well on his nose. His backpack is nearly half the size of his body and it looks heavy, too heavy for anyone his size to carry. I want to ask him if it’s heavy. And I want to ask him if he’s tired, if he’s overwhelmed, if he’s happy. In my head I ask him these questions everyday but everyday he says nothing and gets off with the rest of the students.
And there’s the middle-aged man who boards two stops later than mine, with the satin pants and shiny black shoes. He plays games on his phone to pass the time. Sometimes he plays Pocket Camp, a game where you take on the role of “campsite manager” and decorate your own campsite with the help of visiting animals. I play it too. I think it was designed for a young, female audience, so it makes me happy to see him play. From a few feet away, I watch him tap his phone, chatting with his animal friends. I try to imagine what his campsite looks like.
I don’t know anything about them beyond that. I’ll probably never even know their names. And they will never know mine. But they are familiar, constant, and they make the ride a little easier somehow.