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7:23 am

Since September, every 7:23 am has been the same. First, the dull sound of an engine, then the headlights piercing the dark. The bus slows, then stops. The doors open in front of me.

“Good morning!”

I get on. Sit down. Journey. Arrival.

“Goodbye!”

I get off. The day happens.

5:48 pm: return journey.

“Good evening!”

Sit down, journey, arrival.

“Goodbye.”

Five months.

 

New Year. Back again after the festivities. I hate the holidays. Rituals interrupted.

January. Cold. 7:23 am. Engine in the distance, headlights, I get on.

“Happy New Year!”

She looks up. At last…

For five months, I’ve been watching her drive this bus. Watching out for her every morning and every evening.

“Thank you, you too.”

A smile, a glance. I sit down not too far from her. I have already spent a lot of time watching her drive this bus. Quite curious to see her hands, so tiny on such a big steering-wheel. Focused, careful, skillful. Beautiful. For weeks I have been learning about the nape of her neck, her moods, her outfits, her hairstyles, her driving habits. One morning the shape of her neck stayed in front of my eyes. After that it never left me.

This is my New Year’s resolution. To talk to her, to make contact with her, to go out with her.

“Happy New Year!” At least she looked at me. And replied. Baby steps.

What can I find to say tomorrow? That I have a thing about women bus drivers? That I would like to see her standing up and not always sitting behind that steering wheel? That perhaps…if she would like? No, it’s too soon, I must engage in conversation. Closer. Remain standing up? Next to her.

 

February. This morning, the alarm clock did not go off.

Forgot my bus pass. Too late.

“Go ahead and sit down,” she says. “After all this time, I know you well enough!”

She knows me!

I stammer a thank you.

She knows me? That’s a good start. I go and sit down. Broken alarm clock? A chance missed? Or a success? What else?

5:48 pm: return journey.

“Still no bus pass, sir?”

“I’ll try and do better tomorrow!”

A broad smile of complicity.

“Good night. See you tomorrow.”

She said “See you tomorrow!” Not “Goodbye” or “Goodnight” or something like that.

Actually, “See you tomorrow!”

Tomorrow, I’ll take her a little something. To thank her for having let me on for free without my pass. Or…I’ll see tomorrow.

 

7:20, 21, 22, 23 am

7:25 am

She’s late.

She’s never late.

7:29 am

Engine, headlights, brakes. Doors opening.

I sing out, “I’ve got my card!”

A sort of sinister-looking fat guy is staring at me; I am distraught and dumbfounded.

“You seem really pleased about that!” he replies.

It is early, and he is already sweating quite heavily, his cheap aftershave not succeeding in masking the smell. From the place where I have hurriedly sat down, I can see his arms crushing the steering wheel, and rolls of fat creasing his neck.

My bag weighs a ton, my feet too, awful day, horrible weather, people who exasperate me.

5:48 pm: return journey. The same guy recognizes me and gives me a mocking smile with one move of his unpleasant chin.

I hate taking the bus. I’ve arrived. I get off. The silhouette of a back. I know that back. She turns round.

“It’s my day off,” she says. “So are we going to have that coffee together?”

The following day, I had to hold myself back from kissing the fat guy.

And that, you see, is how I met your mother.

Translated by Wendy Cross

173

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