Number 23

2 min
Image of Spring 2019
Image of Short Story
You remember the ride, don’t you? It was heading towards the campus along Stevens Creek Boulevard. It was a short trip if you dismiss the waiting time but the wait was rather long. You couldn’t miss the bus. It was painted blue with the electronic header at the top. In the morning, it came with the friendly bus driver. You stepped in and showed the monthly pass. It cost a lot more if you didn’t buy the sticker: a $6 worth of daily trip. Inside, you warmed up with other college students. They were busy on the mobile, listening to the music, or shutting their eyes while holding 300-some-pages of textbook. The bus moved with a humming sound. You could see the empty bus stops before the main intersection.

Now and then you hoped for a driving license. It was a free ticket to the highway. Bus Number 23 took you quite far but you wanted to go further. In winter, the weather distracted your waiting time. In summer, the bus was less frequent. “Pain and pain...” You seemed to forget the convenience of Number 23. If only the Bus took you far to the international airport. Maybe then, you could have won the summer trip to Australia. Maybe then, you would have bought the Maroon 5 concert show. It seemed that your wishes rarely come true. Your eyes wandered to the sky as Number 23 brought you home. You breathed in the changing seasons. It would be another year until you leave the small city.

The bus never changed it routes. You noticed the guy with dark headphones exited on the second bus stop. Housewives rolled into the bus with multiple grocery bags. Some groups stepped off at the local pizza restaurant. The bus driver helped a disabled lady enter and settle in the bus. It was a public space of strangers. It was the dynamic setting of your college life. You retraced what you missed in the years. Yes, the bus never changed it routes. It was constant and loyal. It did save you. That time, remember? You came with the train and felt lost in the downtown. Number 23 appeared and brought you back safely. You once explored the neighborhood, past the highway, beyond the neighborhood. Number 23 came as the dynamic signage to get you home.

You laughed. The stories went on.

The backpack you held was old and tattered. You used it for groceries from time to time. Then you waited for the bus with the melted ice. Oh, and that time when the chilly wind stroke your bone. Yes! The dress was so wrong. “Great, that’s Number 23.” Don’t you remember more stories? The bus silently hummed along as if it knew your favorite song by now. Your favorite seat was near the exit doors. Sometimes you stood against the handle to watch the commuters. It never forgets the latest time you took the ride. When the night was dark and you were stranded far away. When the winter blew chills and you were outside a bar. You smiled with a red nose as Number 23 headlights appeared on the block.

Number 23 didn’t get you far but it got your back.

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