Prologue: I wrote this short story a year ago for a creative nonfiction class. The characters in it and the ending has morphed and changed from its first draft to now. Lots of stuff here is made up. Lots of stuff here is true.

In the words of Anne Lamott, "You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should've behaved better."

Few warnings: Language, depression, and brutal honesty.

It has taken me close to eleven years, but I have finally perfected the art of sitting alone on the bus. You only need to follow three easy steps.

First, you must choose a seat within four rows of the middle of the bus. This is the neutral zone—the one populated by a variety of bus characters but not designated as the specific territory of the front-of-the-bus people or back-of-the-bus people.

The front-of-the bus people are the weird passengers who make your skin crawl with their intense eye contact as they discuss the specifics of the events in their life leading up to them taking the bus or the ones who make uncomfortable jokes about video games and sex. The back-of-the-bus people are the passengers who want nothing more than to make the bus ride a living hell for everyone. They set fires, they throw things, they tear down anyone who sits past the invisible and ambiguous row of seats which marks their territory from that under the driver's protection.

The middle is where you go for safety—not happiness—but safety. In the middle you find the people who think that they are too good for the bus' rules and sneak on the food with a smell so pungent it tries to choke you—or worse, cigarettes. You find the people completely zoned out and binge watching shows that are dripping with melodramatic dialogue and contrived drama. If you are really unlucky, there are also couples. There are couples who are doing well, whispering together and laughing at the rest of the world. Then there are the couples who are not doing well, who silence all of the surrounding rows because no one wants to be pulled in to mediate their argument. You do not want to be any of these people, so you take the second step.

The second step is to place your bag on the seat next to you, plug in your headphones, and curl up into the corner. Just one of these isn't enough; you need the trifecta. People generally feel uncomfortable asking you to do three things: pause music, move bag, sit normally. But, to be safe, you need to take the last step.

The most important step is how you configure your face. There are two solid options. Number one, fall asleep, or at least convincingly pretend to have completely blocked out the horrors around you. Number two, let people know how much you absolutely detest the institution of busses and that there is nothing you want to do less than be here.

Follow these steps and you can become a silent rider like me, one who does not talk, who does not do anything but sit and lean her head on the window, aware of the truth about being a bus rider: you take the bus when you want to punish yourself for being alive.

That's the reason I'm on this Fullington bus on Easter Sunday, hurdling back to the ironically named Happy Valley. I want to be dead. I want to be dead as much as I hate the bus. But I'm still alive, and I'm still on the bus, and that's pretty much on par with how well my life is going right now.

I didn't always hate the bus. The change happened somewhere eleven years ago, when I was in fourth grade. I'm not sure exactly what it was. It's not like my dog was run over by a bus or that my mother packed her bags and ran away to become a cross-country bus driver or even that my childhood bus driver had targeted me as Public Enemy No. 1 and rallied the other passengers to make my life miserable. In fact, when I was in elementary school, riding Bus 37, I used to really like or pity my bus driver. It's unclear which feeling it was.

He rarely if ever checked on what was happening in the back of the bus, no matter how loud it got. Instead he turned up the music and stared ahead as he weaved in and out of traffic and honked at the cars that chose to ignore the stop sign. The only time he ever broke his eye contact with the horizon was when someone would inevitably misjudge their aim, the paper projectile hitting the back of his head instead of one of their friends'. He would close his eyes for half a second and lift a finger to the mirror as a warning. It was all he needed to elicit the dissonant harmonies of "Sorry!" and "It was Hamid!" and "Nice going, dumb-butt" and laughter.

Every time I got off the bus, I gave him a hug and thanked him. I had no real awareness of the affection being inappropriate. He never said anything. He always just looked ahead. I don't know if he could look back. I think if he did, he wouldn't be able to stand riding the bus. No, instead he stared ahead, and the corner of his lips twitched as if attempting to remember how to smile. I can't blame him for never quite remembering.

The bus driver wasn't my only friend on Bus 37. I had a host of imaginary friends I cycled sitting next to, all invisible anthropomorphized versions of my American Girl dolls. Kirsten and Kit were my closest friends. Felicity was slightly too cool for me, but she was warming up. I had taken Kaya under my wing.

So, the bus was good. And then, it wasn't.

I guess, that kind of describes how I feel about wanting to be dead too.

For the most part, I wanted to be alive for twenty years. Now, I don't.

This wasn't the result of a huge epiphany that dying would solve all of my problems, and it's not like I just woke up one morning and knew deep within me that my life was pretty much over, and I was just a dead man walking. It's more like I was led here by a series of small revelations, of sentences that I collected and carried with me over the years, that I adopted as mine. After so many years of carrying them, I finally looked back and realized my arms were full and I wanted to put them down.

The first revelation came from Summer.

That was her name. She was my first friend at the new (and according to my parents, "Way better!") school. She let me sit next to her my second time on the new bus: Bus 8.

My first time on the bus had been nothing short of a complete disaster. The difference between my Bus 37 and Bus 8 was evident from the get-go. I no longer rode along with Hamid, Charisma, Jamil, and Diamond. Instead, we had Hayden, Bethany, Cole, and Summer. The kids didn't talk about the man who ran, "high as a kite," through their backyard followed by the police. They talked about their violin lessons. I continued to wear my standard edition, navy blue twill skirt and white polo shirt. They wore the height of elementary school fashion— Limited Too and GAP. I had been so overwhelmed that I sat next to my brother—a second grader. This, I later learned from Summer, was something that fourth graders just did. not. do.

Summer knew because she, like me, was a fourth grader. We had the same teacher. That was how she knew my name when she called me over to sit next to her on the ride home. It was one of the reasons that I made the biggest mistake of that day—I sat down next to her.

Summer had the tendency to take on "projects." I was one. It took about five minutes of conversation for her to determine that I needed her help. Big time. I had no idea of the bus' seating hierarchy or what colors looked good on my skin. I had never listened to Eminem or watched any Cartoon Network shows. To top it all off, I liked school. Weird. Summer assured me that she would help me get used to things and by the time we walked off the bus, she had inducted me into the her circle. I was popular. In training.

Summer was nice. She protected me from the other kids' teasings when I decided to wear my earrings backwards because I thought the backs of earrings were underappreciated. She attempted to teach me that wearing adult medium sweatshirts did not really work on an eight year old's body. She made me a friendship bracelet and hung out with me and my dog on the weekends. She introduced me to boys and asked me questions about life in my hometown. She pointed out the unique ways I ate things, like eating the chocolate off of Kit-Kats before the wafers, or separating the school's frozen pizza's into its different components and eating them one by one. She encouraged me to tell more jokes. When I told a joke, she led everyone else into laughter.

And then she decided to spring a revelation on me.

It was a Friday in January, which meant that it was the most hallowed of all days within the school week—pizza day. I had gotten my piece of pepperoni pizza, carton of chocolate milk, and the fruit cup for Summer. The cafeteria seemed louder than it normally did, which I was somewhat thankful for because it meant that my Minnie-Mouse sneakers wouldn't be as noticeable when they squeaked on the linoleum of the cafetorium. I had made it past the pairs of lunch tables assigned to Mrs. Strehle and Mr. Dudrick's classes, and I had only Mrs. Penjuke's class between me and my group of friends when Summer met me in the middle of the aisle. "Hey, can I talk to you for a second?" she asked.

"Of course," I nodded, fixing my grip on the lunch tray between us. "Oh, yeah, I got you the peaches."

"Thanks," she said, lifting the fruit cup off of the tray. It fell along with the rest of her hand to her side as she looked at me. Her face seemed oddly blank, as if she were waiting for me to say something despite the fact that she had called me over. The kids at the table next to us looked up, but one glare from Summer and they dropped their gaze.

"Look," she started. If I had known then the way sentences end when they start with "look," maybe I could have done something to stop what was coming. I would have seen the revelation and been able to reject it. But it came. "No offense, but we really don't want you to sit with us anymore."

I stopped breathing.

Unfortunately, I also started back up again.

"Why?" My voice cracked on the word.

"We're just talking about things and people, and we don't want you to hear. Nobody's really comfortable talking in front of you."

My stomach churned, and if anything my breathing started to get faster. "But I don't really know anybody here. I'm new, so I don't even know who you're talking about. It's not like I can tell them. I wouldn't even if I knew who they were." I protested, readjusting the tray again in my now sweaty palms. I glanced across the cafeteria. At the other kids eating and laughing with their lunches. Some happened to be looking at me and they quickly averted their gaze when they noticed the tears in my eyes. I turned to look to the other girls I had been friends with. They continued to stare at me and Summer. Anna said something, and everyone laughed.

"We just don't feel comfortable with you there," Summer said, with a shrug. "Sorry." She turned around and started to saunter back to our—her friends.

"Where should I sit?" I asked her back.

She did not turn around. She did not stop. She shrugged and kept moving, staring ahead.

I stood there, picked up the pieces of the conversation, and held them in my arms along with my lunch tray. I sat alone at lunch.

I sat alone on the bus ride home that day.

This was before I had perfected the art of sitting alone. It was before I realized that when you sit alone on the bus with your eyes closed, you don't have to watch people pass you by to sit with the cute brunette wearing the floral dress you recognize from the window of Urban Outfitters. When you have your headphones in, you don't hear friends calling to each other over your head.

My phone buzzes. It's my roommate. Hey, do you mind if I have the room to Skype for like the next hour? She's very considerate. I guess I got pretty lucky in the random roommate lottery.

No problem! I'm still about two hours away. Have fun! I'm not sure if that's weird to say, but's too late because the text is sent. It reaches State College in seconds, no bus needed.

State College is the town of busses. It has Fullington. It has Greyhound. It has Megabus and Catabus. It even has that weird blue school bus. In fact, State College has been the town of busses for so long, it's probably more accurate to call it the bus of towns.

People who call the place Happy Valley are the same people who try to convince me that I should appreciate the bus. They are the people who play in the year-round snow, who don't mind that their senses have been dulled by the constant cold and copious amounts of alcohol. They are the ones who claim to "like the feel of wind in their hair" and ignore the fact that it bites, whips, scratches at them. These are the people who lied to me and told me that college would be the best years of my life, that it is magical and golden and that I will miss this when I grow up. It has taken me three years to perfect my response. I now know how to reach down into myself and gathered up any bits of laughter I can muster from the far corners of my body and chase them out. Afterwards, I tell them to go fuck themselves because when it comes down to it, State College is a bus. It's a disappointment you paid for. From the tours you took on the three days it was sunny in State College, to the classes with exciting descriptions taught by professors who simply read PowerPoints, to the friends who promised to be your roommate until they got a better offer.

I can't blame the girl who didn't want to room with me for changing her mind. Not entirely. It's hard to convince yourself to spend a year with a person who admits to finding it difficult to get out of bed every morning. It's hard to deal with someone who finds it almost impossible to smile. It's hard to live with someone who hates the bus as much as I do, and who forces her friends to tramp through the snow and the ice with her. So, despite what she thinks, I don't consider her to be "the worst person ever." I think that I also would have stood at the Catabus stop and told myself: "I don't know if I can live with you for a year and we'll still come out of it as friends." And you know, I probably should thank her for saying that because she put words to the feeling that has been slowly building up in me: I cannot live with myself for a year.

When I get off this bus, I'm going to kill myself.

Admittedly, this is not the first time I have said this to myself. But, when I said it earlier I was a different person. I did not have all of the revelations that I have now. When I said it the first time, I could only think of one sentence: "Maybe this happened because you are fickle."

The boy who said this to me could have been any of the boys I've "talked to" since I came to college. It could have been, but it wasn't. It was Kevin.

I met Kevin on a hike with a mutual friend, Ben. Ben, was a freshman in college like me. We met in church and subsequently discovered that I lived two floors above him. After that, he convinced me with his subtle humor and easy laugh that joining his Christian organization would make my college experience way better. To give him credit, my experience was marginally improved. It gave me something to do other than sit in my dorm and watch Boy Meets World. So, when Ben invited me to go on a hike with him and Kevin, a junior who apparently was also in our Christian group, I jumped at the chance ignoring the fact that I hated physical activity and I hated the woods. Ben made me feel welcome. I liked that.

I saw Kevin for the first time when he pulled up in a red sports car behind our dorm. He didn't say anything when we got into the car. "Dude, your hair," Ben commented.

"Like it?" Kevin asked, looking at himself in the rearview mirror. His hair was shaved into a mohawk. It would have looked pathetic on anyone else. His hair was not long enough for him to spike, nor was it curly enough for it to stand up on its own. It wasn't floppy or anything, it just looked like he had gotten a buzzcut and the barber had missed a strip. Despite that, he made it work. I could not see much of him since I had chosen to sit directly behind him, but from what I could tell in the mirror, his aviators and tanned, Hollister model face made up for what his hair lacked.

"I mean, it's pretty sweet, but isn't your brother's wedding next month?" Ben laughed.

"It'll grow back," Kevin shrugged, swinging the car out of the parking spot and tearing up the 15 mph road. "Besides, he's too uptight about that kind of stuff; he needs to loosen up."

Ben laughed again as I clawed at the door's handle, holding it so tight that my knuckles were white the entire way to Rothrock. After pulling into an alarmingly narrow parking spot, Kevin threw the door of the car open and moved around to the trunk.

"Is my water bottle in the backseat?" Kevin's voice came through from behind. They were the first words he ever spoke to me. I looked down at the floor that was covered in trash.

"Uh, no."


Kevin continued to rummage around behind me, and I continued to sit there, strapped into the car. It was a few more moments until Ben let himself out, and I followed suit.

"The water bottle's gone, but look at this—" Kevin held a neon green shirt up with the word ONLY DO IT WITH CONSENT plastered across the front.

"What is that?" Ben asked.

"I got it at the HUB. They were just giving them out for free," Kevin replied, putting the shirt so it lay half in and half out of the trunk. He reached into his back pocket and drew out a large utility knife.

Ben asked no questions. I also kept my mouth shut and instead watched as he ripped into the shirt with his knife, cutting off a strip from the bottom. Kevin pushed the rest of the shirt back into the trunk and then put his knife away. Ben continued to not ask any of the obvious questions that popped into my mind and instead gazed on, snickering as Kevin tied the strip of cloth around his head. He then swaggered off and ahead, leading me and Ben to the pathway into the woods.

Neither of the boys were fans of well-blazed paths. After following one for all of ten minutes, Kevin decided it would be a good idea to take a detour, and Ben instantly agreed.

"I'm pretty sure they have paths for a reason," I had objected, standing still as they pushed on ahead, moving tree branches away from their faces on their way deeper and deeper into the forest.

"Yeah, because they're lame!" Ben called back as he moved ahead. "Fuck the paths!"

I took a tentative step forward, my eyes on the ground, scanning for tracks or snakes. "Yeah, sure, fuck the paths. But when a bear comes to eat us, I'm pretty sure the paths will be having the last laugh."

"A bear is not going to eat us," Ben scoffed. "They only have Nittany lions up here."

I cannot remember much of the hike. Aside from what happened at the car, Kevin seemed to be more thoughtful and way less douche-y than he appeared. I soon learned that this outfit—the Timberlands, baggy jeans, and bright orange pinnie was his everyday attire, but it was a performance. In conversation, he was different. He was introspective and vulnerable. I remember the surprise I felt at his responses to Ben's philosophical musings about the meaning of life, the validity of the Bible, and Myers-Briggs personality types. I had settled into the assumption that my first impression of Kevin was entirely misguided until we reached the creek. It was at that point that Ben and I decided we should turn around. Kevin, however, had different plans.

"It's just water, and it's not even that deep," Kevin scoffed, pulling off his pinnie. "We can just wade through." And then he took off his jeans, and started across in his boxers and—for some unknown reason—his Timberlands.

The sight made me smile, and at that moment, something in me seemed to click. I liked the white-knuckle feeling of anxiety and exhilaration. I liked his unpredictability.

Kevin and I were dating by the end of the month.

Two days after we made it official, I went home for the summer. Our relationship progressed in a series of text messages.

May 10th Hey, I was driving and "Sweet Home Alabama" came on and I thought of you. ;)

May 14th I'm excited to see you. I hope your family likes me. I hope you like me.

May 14th "We'll see how it goes" isn't very promising.

May 14th The :P means different things to different people.

May 14th Maybe I shouldn't come. If you're not sure how you feel for me.

There was a phone call then. I argued and cried through a good bit of it, but in the end, I conceded that I didn't know how to make a joke, and my comment was inappropriate. He decided to make the three-and-a-half-hour drive to my house.

May 18th I hope your parents liked me enough to let you come see me.

May 18th Good. I can't wait 'til you get here. Get your bus ticket soon. ;)

May 21st I was just thinking—are you 100% sure of your feelings for me?

May 21st Good, me too. I wanna say the L-word.

May 21st Yeah, I know. That's why I'm not going to. I just want to.

May 23st I'm bored. Class sucks. I wish you were here.

May 23st No offence, but just because I say I'm bored doesn't mean I need your life advice.

May 28th I should confess, I'm unsure of my feelings right now.

June 2nd Just curious why you never talk to me, but it's whatever.

June 5th I think I had gotten ahead of myself and I'm not ruling anything out but I think for now we should only be friends, I'm sorry it took so long. I've been confused a lot lately and I want to Skype about this still.

The cyclone of emotions left me devastated. It wasn't so much that I was sorry for the loss of him—I felt as relieved to be free of the twenty text messages in an hour at various stages of emotional wellbeing. I no longer felt as if I consistently had to assure him that I still had feelings for him or lie and tell him that I was sure of my feelings. I just couldn't understand what had gone wrong. All I knew was that three weeks after we started dating, we had finished.

I can't wait to tell you how complicated things have been here. It's been terrible. I wish I could just run away honestly.

The text came the day after we broke up. I could feel the pressure of it in my chest, holding me down. We weren't dating, and I was still stuck under the weight of him. I didn't know what I could say, so I asked if we could talk about it when I came up to State College that weekend. I had bought the tickets weeks ago and after we broke up planned on using them to visit some of the other friends that I had made through Ben. It took a while to get him to agree that speaking as close to face-to-face as possible was a good idea.

We never met.

Instead, Friday afternoon, as I sat on the upper level of the Megabus, my phone rang. Shooting an apologetic glance to the person sitting next to me, I looked at my phone to silence it and saw the text from Kevin. I still have feelings for you, you know that.

I wasn't sure how to respond. I shouldn't have responded at all. Instead, I typed four letters: Oh ok.

The response back was immediate. Despite my better judgment, I opened the text.

Well, I guess I'm just an idiot.

Panic rose into my chest as the weight pressed down on me again. I hurried to text a response, nervous of the text that was to come if I didn't. I wouldn't say that.

He didn't take a lot of time before he texted. He didn't need it. That's so typically vague. I really regret coming to visit and anything that happened.

My fingers fumbled over the keys. I don't know what you want me to say.

You asked me to visit and introduced me as your boyfriend and now you don't even like me like that. I should have known this would happen. It's not like you haven't done this before. As a lesson for the next guy: don't tell him you're sure you want to be with him when you're going to go back on it in two days.

My breath caught in my throat, as if it was trying to choke me. You broke up with me.

I never lost feelings for you until right now.

I kept breathing long enough to make one last attempt at peace. I craved his absolution. One final act of forgiveness before I gave in and allowed myself to choke. Maybe this happened so you can be with someone else. We just aren't right for each other.

Maybe this happened because you're fickle. Oh wait, it did. And you know, everyone I've talked to thinks so too. It's so obvious. I had barely finished reading the first text before the next one came in. Don't ever talk to me again. I'm serious.

The bus hurtled along the mountainous roads, rain pounding on the windows so that I could barely see outside. I continued to read the penultimate text over and over again, my hands gripping the phone so tightly that my knuckles stood out white.

I couldn't keep his words away. Maybe this happened because you're fickle. They made no sense and they complete sense. I couldn't keep a platonic friend, why should I be able to keep a romantic one? And while I still had no idea how I drove away all of my friends, at least I knew why my relationships didn't work out. I was fickle. That had to be it. It just had to be. The words ingrained myself into my very being and continued to prove themselves true. It was true with Ben. It was true with Kevin. It was true with every boy since. I lured them in with laughter and devotion and then the minute they expressed interest in me, I grew distant and pulled away. I'd probably do the same to my friends if they desired any level of intimacy with me.

It takes some time before I notice that everyone around me is standing up and that the bus has stopped. I look out the window and realize that this is not the Pattee-Paterno library. In fact, we aren't even anywhere close to State College. We're pulled over in a shady gas station with a name that I have never heard of next to "Tom's Breakfast Buffet."

"We're going to take a half hour stop here," the bus driver announces over the loudspeaker. "Make sure you're back on by 8:15 otherwise you'll get left behind." I hope he's serious.

Tom's Breakfast Buffet is a depressing establishment. The top half of the walls are papered with a yellowing floral pattern reminiscent of my great grandmother's couch and the bottom half is made of wood paneling. Most of the wooden tables are dingy and scratched. Mine has an assortment of swear words and couples' names carved into it. The booths' green upholstery is cracked and the yellow fluff contained within it is coming out. The waitresses match the interior with equal looks of despondency and dingy yellow uniforms as they refill cups of coffee and shuttle away dishes. Cheryl comes over and places my water in front of me.

"Feel free to go on up and help yourself," she instructs, already halfway to the next table as she finishes the statement. I slide myself out of the booth and walk up to the buffet. It has been ravaged with food strewn all over the adjoining counter and only scraps of scrambled eggs and broken sausage links in their respective containers. I move along the buffet, hoping for one thing and one thing only: pancakes. For all of the icebreakers that asked what my ideal last meal would be like, I always claimed that I would have blueberry pancakes—as many as I can eat. When I reach the pancakes it appears as if as many as I can eat translates roughly to two and a third. I pile the drooping pancakes onto my plate, eyeing the blueberries. They are small, about the size of chocolate chips, and I know that they are not even the bitter kind. They are probably mostly ice and skin—frozen blueberries.

I take my plate and shuffle back to the booth. It's not particularly what I imagined my last meal would be like. For one thing, pretty much none of my twelve guests made it. I'm assuming J.K. Rowling and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie missed their flights. Tina Fey was probably working on a script somewhere, same as Joss Whedon. Meanwhile Paul Rudd, Chris Pratt, and David Tennant are on the other end prepping for roles. John Stewart may even be taping or running a rally of some kind. The only person who arguably made it is Jesus. I wish he hadn't. I wish he had taken the time to teach his trick to Jane Austen, J.R.R. Tolkein, or at least Heath Ledger instead. Then again, would I want to feed Heath Ledger this quality of limp, cold, somehow salty pancakes? Probably no.

"Hey, you." A body slides into the booth across from me and shakes the table as he leans his arms on it. My head snaps up from pushing pancakes around the plate, and I'm face to face with a grinning Ryan. He always seemed to be grinning and winking. That and the fact that he was incredibly comfortable with touch, playing with girls' hair, laying himself across their laps, giving long, tight hugs drew me to him. He was easy and free with his words too. He commonly greeted girls by calling them beautiful, and he called all of the guys studs. He had proclaimed his love for pretty much everyone in our organization.

"I haven't seen you in forever," Ryan comments. He has a knack for offhandedly pinning exactly what was most sensitive to a person. I put up with it the best because I bit back.

"Have you tried?" I ask, sticking pancake in my mouth.

"Good point." His smile never falters. "I didn't know you were on the bus. Where are you sitting?"

"Up on the top level."

"Upper class, then," he winks. "How was your break?"

I shrug.

"Same, then," he nods, reaching over and stealing a piece of pancake. He chews thoughtfully, his eyes never leaving mine. It's as if I had never stopped responding to his texts. It's as if he was unaware that I had been head over heels for him and now was not. It's as if he was honestly glad to see me and in no way had I let him down, disappointed him with who I really was rather than who he thought I was.

"Wow, these are terrible," he remarks finally, reaching over for another piece.

I move the plate away from him. "Get your own terrible pancakes."

"Terrible pudding pancakes?" he asks, withdrawing his hand. "Remember those?"

It had been two months into our friendship. He heard of my deep love for pancakes and invited me over to his place to use his extra pancake mix. Of course, we soon found out that pancake mix was pretty much the only ingredient he had. He had run out of milk using it all to make pistachio pudding the previous night for dessert. After a few minutes of debate, we decided—in a truly tragic lapse of judgment—that the pistachio pudding could substitute for the milk.

After setting off the smoke detector twice because "they're still not ready to flip" they ended up with a gooey and yet still somehow crumbly mess. The taste of the pancakes was another matter altogether. They tasted of flour, salt, and pistachio pudding.

"How can I forget?" I ask. "I don't think the taste will ever really leave my mouth."

Ryan laughs, picking at another piece of pancake. "That was a good night."

That was the night when, looking out at the stars, he told me that he had a crush on someone else, but he didn't know what to do since she wasn't interested. My heart had stopped and then sunk to the bottom of my stomach. We sat in silence, much in the same way that I did now. Only then, I managed to come up with a few words. I told him that life had a way of dealing out the unmanageable and telling you to cope. I told him that he was worthwhile and if she didn't see that then he should wait for someone who did because he was too good to settle for someone who didn't see how fantastic he was. "Someone like you," he responded with a wink. Then he told me that I was one of the best and hugged me. That was the last conversation we had. The next day I started the process of fading.

"I miss you hanging around," Ryan states, suddenly. "Where've you been?"

"Recently? Riding a bus," I answer, blithely, and Ryan laughs.

"Not exactly what I meant. Hey, what are you doing on Wednesday?"

I decide not to tell him that at that point of time I would probably be laying wherever it was they put dead bodies before the funeral. "I have an exam Thursday morning that I really need to study for."

"What about Thursday after your exam?"

By Thursday I'd probably be underneath a casket lid. No, it'd be open casket. Pills wouldn't leave anything to hide.

"Honestly, I'll probably be pretty exhausted and just want to sleep."

"What about tomorrow? We can grab breakfast before your first class and get some real pancakes." Breakfast tomorrow. Tomorrow was only four hours away. Breakfast time was at least seven more. Eleven long hours between now and then.

"My first class is at nine."

Ryan groans. "So you're telling me I'm going to have to get up at seven."

"You don't have to," I shake my head. I could keep on schedule.

"Nah, you're worth it."

I pause. "7:30?"

"Sounds perfect."

The sound of wind chimes interrupted the silence. Ryan pulls out his phone and swipes across the screen, silencing the chimes. "We should get back to the bus," he comments. I nod.