232 Déjà vu

Tap On. Exchange a mumbled greeting with the balding driver as he cleans his very reflective sunglasses. Take a seat somewhere at enough of a polite distance to the other commuters, but not under the condensation leak of the overworked AC. Blindly feel the familiar routine of turns and stops while gazing out at the same arrangement of power lines and pavement. It's another day, on my way to work. Déjà vu on the 232.

It's easy to let this twenty minute commute slip past without much of a second thought. I usually just plug into some overplayed playlist and go into soft-focus, like a boy opening and staring at the contents of a fridge.

But today's trip was different. I stood by the bus stop with my hands folded into my armpits; a very lackluster attempt to stay dry. Why I chose to stand in the rain, I'm not sure. The bus was admittedly running late, which felt odd, considering it was only just past sunrise. An older man is pacing anxiously at the stop next to me, checking his watch and checking again. I offer a raised eyebrow, shake of the head and a huff, as if to say, "I know".

We step on and sit across from each other. Without introduction, he proceeds to give a remarkably detailed history of the minute by minute lateness of the bus. He's checking his watch again, but we are already on our way. 

After some silence, he takes note of my hospital uniform. He explains that his brother has had a major heart surgery at the hospital we were both heading to. A valve replacement. He explains that he is now in the Intensive Care Unit. He tells me, a complete stranger, that today marks the critical period of recovery whereby a patient will either show signs of perpetual improvement or lethal decline. He had read every page on this procedure and spoke with such an urgency that rendered a smile on his face but a watering intensity to his eyes.

He told me the fastest route from the bus stop to the elevator. He told me that the second last elevator seemed to move the fastest.

It's not often that a bus ride alters your reflections on the importance of an entire concept such as time. But here I was, a bed head sleepy teenager on my way to a shift, across from a man whose daily endeavor was to optimise every minute to spend with a loved one.

Maybe that time spent in soft focus, thinking of the weight of your adversities is not useless, but just misplaced. We tell ourselves a story and name it the past without much consideration of the present. 

I actually crossed paths with him again, later that day. Down the infinite sterile hallway to Emergency, he called out my name and offered a hello, continuing on. He'd only heard my name once, some five hours prior.

While I was the only passenger on the 232 heading home, it was hard to feel lonely. When you meet certain people, everything seems to glow a little brighter.

Words and visuals by James Martoo

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