Whenever I am heading home, there is a funny feeling in my stomach, a fear that I might lose the bus, or that I would embark on the wrong one, and then I would end up in another city, with not enough money on me, and no place to stay at (in case there is not enough time to return, of course). Obviously, this works the other way round too. I am actually more worried when I have to return to the city, than when I am heading home.
I remember how once, while I was a freshman in the BA program, there was just one more day before my winter break ended, and I had to leave home and head for the city again. Dad drove me to the bus stop, in a nearby city, so that I wouldn’t need to take the forever-awfully-crowded-bus that went through the village, then change and take another one that would head to City #2, where my university was located. He dropped me off in front of the bus station, asked me if I got everything, and then left for work.
A bus came in and parked in front of the Tickets Cabin; I went ahead and checked its destination. There was no sign posted on the window, so I had to ask the driver, who, surprisingly, was nowhere to be found. Naturally, I had waited patiently for the man to come. Two or three people were discussing about the weather somewhere nearby.
I checked the clock, I looked around, but no sign of the bus driver.
“Miss, where are you headed to?”
One of the men who were talking about who-knows-what to my left decided to make me a part of their conversation. Or… so I thought.
The question clearly made me feel uncomfortable, after all, it is true what they say: stranger danger, stay away and you will be safe. I scanned the man from top to toe. He looked ordinary, nothing suspicious.
He continued to puff his cigarette, waiting for my answer. Instead, I asked if he knew where that particular bus was heading. He named a city, City #2. I thanked him, and then continued to wait for the driver who did not seem to be returning anymore.
According to the bus schedule, there was only one bus going to City #2 that early in the morning, and if I was to miss that one, then I would have had to wait for more than half an hour for the next… outside, in the cold.
People began to embark on the bus, and so did the men to my left. Maybe they have seen the driver coming, I thought. But then, as I turned around, facing the driver’s seat again, I saw him. The man who asked me about my destination.
“Great.” I climbed the tiny stairs and asked him for a ticket.
“Seat no. 15.” He said, then paused for a second. “You know, if you’d have told me earlier, you could have sat inside where it’s warm and cozy, instead of waiting outside in the cold.”
“Thank you.” I said and gave him an embarrassed smile. That is all I could do. I mean, how was I supposed to know he was the one I was waiting for, since he was not wearing his uniform?
Somehow, I felt as if everyone’s gaze was piercing through me. 15, 15, 15, where are you? Aha! I found it and sat down. Shortly after, an old lady came and filled the empty seat next to me.
The engine started.
We went past the railway station, heading into a completely new direction from the one the rest of the bus drivers chose whenever I traveled with them. My heart froze for a bit. Did I just embark on the wrong bus?! I carefully took out my ticket and checked the destination. City #2. I spelled it mentally, rubbed my eyes, and then I looked around. Some of the passengers fell asleep. My neighbor was reading a book.
Loads of white empty fields met my eyes. Here and there, I could see a solitary house or a factory. Two signs appeared. To City #3, right ahead. To City #2, to the left.
We went ahead.
I took another look at the black ink on the white paper. City #2. I checked the road signs. To City #3.
I began to think that I had made a terrible mistake. Nooo, I am too young to die!, I thought. I don’t want to be abducted and have my organs sold on the black market!
A new intersection followed. The same two road signs. I closed my eyes and began to pray. Please turn left, please turn left, please turn left.
I thought I was going to die.
Do I even have enough money to take another bus back?
I was afraid to look and see what way we were heading.
What if I don’t have enough time to return?
The driver changed the lane.
Oh, God. What am I gonna tell my parents?
Out of breath, wide eyed, I fixed my gaze on the sign. The driver steered left. But it was still too early to relax. I continued to search for new road signs. After a couple of City #2 X Km ahead, I could finally feel relieved.
I was heading the right direction, thank God!