On the Bus
for Gally.

No sky and no earth
At all. Only the snowflakes
Fall incessantly.

-Hashin

She pressed her forehead to the dirty glass of the window. The bus roared through deserted streets on the outskirts of the city.

She was hot. Air conditioning warmed the air around her, making her toque and scarf unnecessary, but she did not take them off.

The evening shrouded the city with the veil of streetlights, and snowflakes fell in darkness and silence, only to be felt by those who would venture out into the twilight, driven by whatever reason.

She turned away from the window, her head still resting against the glass, and rubbed her cold wet forehead. Pursed her lips. Closed her eyes. Opened them, and glanced to the right. Beside her, there was a boy, his head meekly swaying in accordance with the motions of the bus. His short brown hair, covered by nothing but melted snowflakes, was wet and messy. Feeling her gaze, he turned his head towards her and smiled.

"Hi."

She could never fathom it, this irresistible need in others to start the conversation. She could not understand why they felt uneasy with silence. They always had to build this bridge between themselves and her – the bridge of words, so rudely disrupting peaceful atmosphere of her existence. They had to start a conversation if they looked at her – even if it was an accident. They had to cover up the mishap of a solitary glance by the flow of words that would blind her to the original and natural cause of their behaviour. If he only smiled. If he just smiled and looked at her without saying anything, she would be grateful.

She did it herself - merely smiled in reply, slowly dragging the lids over her tired eyes. But he would not leave her alone. He was uneasy having received no vocal reply, and thus, his head turned forward, and his lips were forced together, as if to keep his face from looking sour. Then he relaxed and came back to the state of meaningless expression, directed at nothing and no one in particular.

They all did this. Typing away symphonies on their keyboards, making typos playing the piano, carrying pictures of boyfriends in their purses, building stairways to the moon from passed notes, forming circles, wearing T-shirts, smiling, laughing, smirking, swearing, talking, kissing, fucking, smoking – they performed varieties of activities with trillions of facial expressions, but at the bottom of them all there was this one and only expression, eternal and unchanging – the expression of people on the bus. All muscles relaxed, and the face shows nothing. Even when they think of something funny, they try not to smile, as if they were ashamed of showing emotions, afraid of showing anything about themselves to the outside world.

"Hi, Eric." she said quietly, looking at his ear of exceptionally pink colour, because it was so cold outside and he didn't even have a hat on.
His face was once again turned to her, his gaze questioning.
"How do you know my name?"
"I just do. I know everyone's name. Besides, you speak good Spanish. Better than me. That alone is the reason for remembering your name."
He smiled and looked away. He did not have the courage to ask her own name, and she did not have enough motivation to tell him. Now there will be silence, as his brain works feverishly in search of subjects to talk about. What could he possibly say to someone he doesn't know?
"How come you study Spanish?"
Good choice. As long as it was not about the weather.
"Because I like to. I want to know other ways of expressing myself, besides speaking familiar and boring English words."
"And that's why you are in evening school?" he asked incredulously, with a surprised chuckle.
"Is there anything wrong about it?"
"No. It's just… I don't know. No, it's cool."

She did not think he would find a reason for his chuckle. But she knew it. It was because no one did what she did. Most people just needed an additional credit. No one would go out of their way of performing the actions they enjoyed to attend evening school, let alone paying money for it. She was one of a kind, her reason being simple yet preposterous in a society where it was not understood.

What is life? She asked herself again. Nothing more than a series of actions, during the continual development of the initially decaying human body. This thought came to her suddenly, as a continuation of some half-forgotten debate from the past. Get enough credits. Graduate. Find a job. Find someone to keep you warm at night, or satisfy your random sexual desires. Find a house, have kids, die in your sleep. The course of one's life was preprogrammed even before they were born – those were the social outlines of a personal colour book. Those who drew their own pictures were castaways.

The bus was filled with people. They pressed on Eric from above in their silent accusation. All of them were tired and wanted to sit down; but only some of them did. And those who didn't formed a wall between her and the doors. And when the bus passed her stop, she looked at them and saw their faces and felt how angry at her they would be if she got up and pushed her way through, causing disturbance, inconvenience, or even pain. And above that, she imagined how pleased would someone feel taking her place beside the window. Disgusted, she turned away and stared out the window. Small yellow squares of lit windows flew by, along with trees and sidewalks covered in snow. She would sit here until the bus finished its turn and came back to her stop, and people would let her out.

Suddenly she felt suffocation. Everything was pressing down on her – the glass from one side and people with masks on their faces from the other, breaking into her personal space, ruining her identity, sucking her into their midst that was called society and her face melted and she was becoming one of them. She recoiled from the window, staring at her expression in the glass. There was her face, unchanged, surrounded by stares of people that were standing. In that reflection, they surrounded her from the left and right and they soared above her, yawning, staring, their eyes empty and dark and listless. She tried to look into them, to get a glimpse of this eternal mechanism that drove them, that pulled on the strings of their desires and turned them on or off. She was not sure she was looking for it in the right place, because behind their eyes she could see nothing. She remembered a Christian girl telling her to look not in them, but above them. To look for entity that made them its puppets. She refused.

Beside her was Eric's face, looking ever surprised, the two of them on the background of lifelessness. She turned and looked into his pale blue eyes.
"What?"
"Nothing. You just pushed me."
"Sorry."
She sat back, and looked straight ahead. Then she asked him:
"Have you ever read Anna Karenina?"
"No. Why do you ask?"
She shook her head before the next question.
"Do you believe in god?"
"I… don't know. Why do you ask these questions?"

Her hand shot upward and tugged at the yellow cord. After a minute, the bus stopped. She got up, and without saying a word, pushed her way ruthlessly through tight-packed people ignoring their sighs, her face a grimace of vigorous determination.

She stood in the middle of nowhere, and only a streetlight bent down to spill light on her. The bus closed its doors and drove away, like the island of light and warmth, a biosphere created by those who inhabited it at the moment. She was alone in the cold. Between the girl and the eye of the streetlight the snowflakes performed their incessant dance. She cursed herself.

She tried once again to build her half of the bridge between herself and others. She did not deceive herself – she knew she was unskilled and unknowing how to bend down and take someone's hand and join their dance of life on warm buses in midst of midwinter blizzards, with muscles of her face relaxed and parts of her mechanism working smoothly and in coordination.

Snow fell upon her face, and as she looked up she imagined that each snowflake was a star and she was flying past them in her shuttle, with unbelievable speed, penetrating matter faster than anything, but all she came to was always the same as it was in the beginning. Cold stars flew by and they would never stop.

It was then that she felt it. She felt the pavement underfoot and the sky up above, and she was just a lone little speck unnoticed and insignificant on the background of everything that seemed infinite. She was smaller than a seething mass of people and a falling mass of snowflakes, a tiny dot in a large world that surrounded her.

Snow crunched under her feet as she slowly made her way across the street. And when she was gone, all that moved were the falling snowflakes.

A/N: I will not try to explain the meaning of this, though I'm sure most of you would raise your eyebrows and go "wtf was that?". I do not object to the opinion that this has been pointless, confusing, bad writing. But, it is what it is. For those who might see the meaning (though I doubt you will, behind all those words that I awkwardly spilled) I will just say that I tried to explore the conflict not as much intrapersonal, and not even interpersonal, but an individual against the society type of conflict. This was written for a close friend, and I do hope she appreciates it. Thank you for reading
-Richard.