The Bus Stop
By Alex Berman
Two girls sit at a bus stop, each wondering if the other feels the same way she does. Wondering if she could be brave enough to find out.
She is unsure, and so is she, and they are unsure together, sitting on a bench waiting for the bus that will whisk her away. She is waiting with her friend, but when the bus comes she will keep walking home. She can feel her friend’s heat in the winter cold, and she dares to be hopeful.
Their hands sit side by side on cool metal slats, pinkies close but never touching. She imagines her skin would be soft to the touch if she took her hand and held it. She imagines it would feel like holding a mug of tea, if that mug were soft, fleshy, and attached to a girl that she knew. But it sits there on the bench, untouched by her, and she dares to think it might like to be held.
They are talking, always talking, but neither knows what they are saying. Something about school or parents or basketball practice. Their minds are on their shoulders, hovering within reach of each other’s weary heads. Each is covered in flannel and down and wool, soft armor against an early snow. Each holds tension in the way one holds a priceless Fabergé egg, if this egg were not an egg at all but in fact a friendship. She dearly wishes to let her head fall onto the nest made of scarf and coat and backpack strap. She imagines it would be exquisite, warming her neck with her soft hair, listening to her steady pulse. As her friend looks away, she stares and dares to dream the pulse wants to be listened to.
She is afraid, and she is afraid, but neither knows it. So she sits there, unaware of her fear, oblivious to her feelings. She sits there and thinks about herself in conjunction with her, thinks about us and we and other things she cannot comprehend. She wishes to say her name in a proud way, in a soft way. She wishes to treasure her name on her tongue like a cradle holds a sleeping baby, and she dares to believe that she wants to be treasured by her.
The bus rolls up, and they say goodbye. They hug, each trying to keep her body as far away from the other as possible. Their shoulders are tense, their hands are cold, their cheeks do not touch. She climbs on the bus, and she begins to walk away, and she sits on the frigid plastic seat and wishes it were warm.
This piece was based off of a simple prompt: write a piece of flash fiction that explores a relationship between two characters. I didn’t have a specific end goal in mind, but I wanted to write about people that I knew. Not anyone specifically, just ordinary people. Something that I think is central to the human experience is not knowing what others are thinking at the most inopportune times. These characters want the same things, so much so that it is hard to tell who is who. But for now, until they can speak up, they will each stay wanting.
Alex Berman was born and raised in Manhattan and is currently a high school sophomore in the Bronx. When not out running (preferably in the rain), Alex can usually be found drawing, writing, or reading with a cup of tea and a cuddly kitten. Alex is also known (to no one) as a Corduroy Pants Enthusiast and would really like to get that title going if you don’t mind. Just, you know, the next time you’re on the topic of pants (corduroy), give Alex a mention.