She was bored. Infinitely bored. She realized with a certain air of superiority that the very act of being bored at her age was hackneyed. Every teenager was bored, bored with the pit of electronic despair they had wallowed in since the advent of Gameboys and rooms brimming with circuits and electrical currents that added basic numbers and spell-checked theses. They grew bored with the inhuman glow of the television that coddled and injected their brains with information concerning the acceptable sizes of wheel rims on fast cars and the newest drug that induces weight loss. She bitterly wondered if they were the same pills filled with tapeworm eggs that graced the sophisticated palettes of the flappers less than a century ago. She chuckled. The woman to her right gave her an odd look. Not surreptitiously enough, lady, Sarah thought, her cheeks darkening.

She checked her cell phone. The neon light proclaimed the time to be five past midnight. The bus was set to leave five minutes ago. The people fidgeted in their seats, antsy, nervous to be in a helpless, sedentary position in that part of town at that time of night. Sarah pulled her knees to her chin and pocketed her phone. The act made her feel like a hypocrite. All of her smoke about the degradation of today's youth with the instant gratification of cell phones and the internet, while she was no less of a slave. The cold, indifferent glare of her cell phone's background was undeniably comforting. Her friends that smiled up at her from their frozen tundra of binary provided a link to her home.

She checked her phone once more. 12:13 flashed. She caught the woman next to her stealing a glance. Their eyes met in the reflection of the screen, the blue light turning them into ghosts. After almost a minute, Sarah broke the bond and looked towards the dark window. She wondered if the woman beside was just as embarrassed as she. Maybe she was quietly mortified, resolving herself to stark stoicism for the rest of the trip. Maybe she was praying that the teenage girl beside her was not some obnoxiously wayward soul, searching for a warm body on which to pour all of her inane troubles. Maybe she was thinking about the weather. At least that's what Sarah was thinking about as she hugged her windbreaker to her chest. It was barely fall and getting cold in the night already. Global warming? Probably. Why not? Everything was about global warming these days.

Suddenly, the entire bus quivered like a massive beast shaking the dew of the night from its fur. A disquieting grinding followed the roar of the engine. Everybody acted as if they hadn't heard it, and Sarah followed suit and remained quiet. A faint crackling dropped from the ceiling, the driver's voice cheerily proclaiming that the bus was little more than twenty minutes off schedule. He said nothing of the grinding.
They were twenty-five minutes off schedule. This driver was terrible. The bus lurched into late-night traffic and wove about as if a toddler. He had said his name was Jeff. She wanted to shout insults at the back of Jeff's head, letting the furious profanities leak from her lips like a deadly poison. The sounds of honking horns would drown her words in a flash flood of cacophony and the passengers would clutch their ears and frantically send text messages to their comrades detailing the violent noise enveloping them. Sarah remained silent.

An hour passed. Two hours. During that time, she crushed herself into the corner and read. The book was boring: Critique of Pure Reason, by Kant. Being pretentious was boring.
"Now every concept must be thought as a representation which is contained in an infinite number of different possible representations."
She had no idea what that meant. It was quotable, though, so she began to imprint it into her memory, recalling past conversations where its placement would have presented her as intelligent and well-read.
"Now every concept must be thought as a representation which is contained in an infinite number of different possible representations."
Anybody who pretended to understand Kant was clearly lying to make himself appear academic and snobbish. Sarah was doing the same. She wondered if Kant himself had had any idea what he was talking about.
"Now every concept must be thought as a representation which is contained in an infinite number of different possible representations."
It probably sounded better in German.

A penetrating, grinding whine rose from the dusty road below. It matched the sound that had so troubled her at the beginning of the trip, though now it was more of a metallic scream. This cry was the wail of reality, the proverbial light bulb of revelation, the sweet song of vindication, of sardonic I-told-you-so. The crackling once again sounded, and the Jeff's voice jollily informed them that the bus may be experiencing some engine trouble. The tone of his voice was confident, calm, as if he were simply stopping the bus and pulling over onto the shoulder of some stretch of godforsaken interstate to rescue a kitten from a tree. There wasn't anything but dry, choked brush for miles. That she could only guess, as the view from the window was pitch black. The driver exited the bus and was swallowed by the blackness. She could make him out in the gleam of the steel shanks of the bus. His movements were frantic as he paced along the side of the road. He seemed to be speaking on a cell phone, or a radio, or himself.
Time passed and the confidence borrowed from the driver's chipper affectation began to melt. The sleepy passengers were invigorated by this new conflict and bleated mercilessly into their cell phones, texting their thumbs raw as they recorded this new development. The mix of animal nervousness and excitement choked the air, creating an atmosphere of claustrophobia. Finally, the sardine can became too much for one the passengers, a portly bear in the throes of middle age. His red face cried distress as he fled the bus. Sarah followed him through the window and watched the flame of his lighter break through the night as he lit his cigarette.
The floodgates had opened. It was only minutes after the desperate smoker had flown the coop that the rest of the nicotine-junkies raced from their seats and kindled their own fires in the cold, desert night. Her view from the window was now of fourteen small flames punctuating the night. The muffled voice of Jeff could be heard through the glass. It was clear that he was being ignored. His voice was a shriek, commanding and pleading that they return to the bus, that a crew would arrive momentarily to fix the bus, that they were only a few minutes off-schedule. Inside, the subordinate passengers continued their impassioned bleating into cyberspace. Sarah turned the page.

Two hours of non-movement passed. Some people retreated to the back of the bus to use the restroom, only to find that it had been clogged by the bear chainsmoking on the side of the highway. They were forced to either grind their teeth and hold it or wander into the darkness.
Help arrived in the form of a second bus and a tow truck. The bleating had slowed to a fatigued mewling as the weary passengers gathered up their canvas-covered possessions and dragged them from the infernal encampment that had held them hostage those last five hours. Bathed in the first tendrils of dawning light, the new bus was mounted and the riders herded into their seats. The identical upholstery and identical stifling air seemed to erase their memories of the past few hours of stagnation. Sarah was annoyed, though it was no longer rage that stirred in her chest, but a crushing weariness. The engine roared to life, the crackling voice of the captain apologized blithely for the inconvenience and the bus crawled onto the interstate. Sarah closed her eyes and drifted away with the maternal vibration of the bus.

The next time she opened her eyes, the sun was blazing through the window. She glared about, the heaviness in her limbs leaving her body sore and her thoughts bitter. Bleary eyes stared blindly ahead as the bus rolled to a stop in the station, pale knuckles clutching armrests in anticipation of release. They licked their lips; they tasted their freedom.
Sarah's phone buzzed. It was her mother. Her face fell, her brows wrinkled in indignation, though her voice never raised higher than a hoarse whisper, deadened from sleep. The conversation was brief.
"Yes, I-I understand.
"Yes, Mom."
"Yes. I love you, too."
"See you soon. "
A sigh racked her hollow form as she trudged towards the ticket booth and requested a ticket to the land from whence she came. The greasy woman behind the register pushed the pass beneath the bulletproof glass and bade her move along with a swipe of her eyes. Dejected, Sarah dragged her multiple bags filled with stuff onto the next identical bus, sat in the same identical seat, and looked out the identical window to watch the tired-eyed multitudes rip out their cell phones to share their journeys.
She reopened Kant and continued reading as the bus gasped alive for the third time that night and drove into the hazy, gyrating air of the desert. It groaned and grinded along the dusty interstate until it slowly disappeared into the horizon.