AN: This is part of what will hopefully be a larger collective of short fictions featuring different passengers riding on the same bus, all written by different people. It's terribly short and not well thought out, but I guess I can get a cookie for being the first one to have something written for the "project." And it's all in fun anyway. There might be more of these coming, who knows.
She looks down at her feet and tries to ignore the people around her. The floor looks back at her. It's scuffed, dingy and covered with a thin layer of something sticky and quite possibly organic. She averts her eyes quickly and looks up. No good, there's someone there staring back at her; twisting slightly, she turns in her seat and searches for a new target. Something to focus on, to take away the unbearable sensation of being noticed.
The back of the bus driver's head bobs as the vehicle rounds another corner. This is okay. This is safe, he has to keep his eyes on the road. She won't be noticed here.
There's a loud sound, and the driver barks out a sharp command, his eyes shifting to the huge mirror plastered to the front of the windshield. There's a brief moment of contact, and the girl jolts back. Noticed. Her cheeks flush red and she turns a little more, this time looking out the window.
She threads her fingers through one another, sucking in her breath. There's nothing particularly unusual about herself, she knows; it would be flattery to think she was eye-catching for her beauty, and self-depreciating to think the same for opposite reasons. No, she knows she is perfectly, astoundingly, mind-numbingly normal; she has the same glazed look as the other passengers on the bus, the same weary, careworn expressions, shares the same uncomfortable unity with the other passengers; no matter who they are, or where they come from, they are all here, and for the moment heading for the same destination.
But she can't meet their eyes. She's not shy; it's not timidity that disquiets her. She knows why she can't look at the other passengers. It's that feeling in the air, the unity, the single-mindedness of travelling together with a group of strangers. If she looks at them, she knows what will happen. The strangers will become familiar, known. The carefully erected barriers of separation, individuality; they will fall if she looks. The drunk hobo who shambled onto the bus through the back door, smelly and unshaved, he will no longer be a stranger, someone to laugh at or ignore; he will be a passenger, just like her. He will grow a story, and his eyes will tell it. The paper-wrapped bottle in his shaking hand will cease to be a drink and become an answer, and her mind will spin its weave, looking for the question.
She purses her lips and tears her eyes away; she's done it again, let her mind wander, and now it's started; the distance has been pierced, and now she is no longer surrounded by strangers. Now she is travelling with people… and now she can't stop herself from caring. What are their stories? How much will she learn on this short trip before she reaches her destination? She scolds herself for her curiosity and trains her eyes back onto the dull plastic of the windowpane. But no matter how she tries, she can't avoid the reflections.