riding the bus

I used to ride the bus to school.

my mom would wake me up at 6:45 and give me a little coffee, because i was just big enough to need it. i had to make my own lunch and make sure all my homework was in my backpack. my mom would give me one egg and one piece of toast and then she had to get ready for work.

i used to ride the bus to school because no one else could take me.

the bus smells different. it’s not something you could describe, not something you’d even know about if you’ve never rode a bus. all buses smell a little different. city buses, prison buses, tour buses. but the one i remember most was that bus. it smelled old and sweet, like mouldy hay. it smelled like kids from a long time ago.

i used to ride the bus all the way to school.

i guess my house was the last stop, because we always drove straight to school from that. no stops. just long, winding hills and forests. the journey made me sleepy, so i remember the trip as a feeling more than a memory. i always forgot what i’d learned at school once the day was over, too. it was like all that stuff would drain out of my head the second i saw our house. mom would ask what i learned that day and i’d stare at my plate.

i used to ride a bus.

one day mom got a call from the Sanitaw Unified School District declaring me truant. they said i had been absent the whole semester and they were ready to send a social services worker to the house. mom said it was crazy, i hadn’t missed a day. the school said records don’t lie and hung up. my mom quizzed me and got real frustrated when i couldn’t answer. you’ve been to school every day, she’d say, surely you know what you did?

i rode a bus.

the next morning my mom waited with me for the bus. no one came. my mom got on the phone and tore the school secretary’s ear off, saying just because their records were wrong they had no right to cut her child off from bus service. The secretary apologized, but ma’am, the school had never had a bus service. while she argued, i saw the bus wait at the driveway for me. it drove away the second my mom got off the phone.

i used to ride the bus to school. sometimes i still see it.


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