The Bus

Brock Clarke

My car won’t start. So I call my wife Therese and tell her that. She says “Oh no!” and then offers to pick me up right away. It’s almost five o’clock. I’m in the parking lot outside my office. It’s been a long day, the kind of long day that the only thing that gets you through it is the thought of going home. But I tell Therese “No.” Because I’m still angry about her and Eric, and as punishment I will . . . not let her pick me up? Before I became a victim, I thought they were noble and righteous. But now I know a victim is like a petty thief, armed, but only with weapons that are prone to misfire, and that in any case are mostly pointed at himself.

So anyway, no, I will not accept Therese’s offer. Instead I will take the bus home. After I tell Therese this, she asks, “How much longer are you going to keep punishing me?” I do the math. It’s been four months since she told me she’d had an affair with Eric, which means I’ve been punishing her for four months already. The affair was over by the time she confessed, and she refused to say how long it had gone on before she ended it, so it’s difficult to know how much time to add for that. But Therese was the one to end it—she told me that and I believe her—and that she was the one to end it definitely counts for something. That’s on the one hand. On the other hand, Eric is my best friend, was my best friend. He was also Therese and my twin sons’ Little League coach, and when Therese told me about the affair, it happened to be when she and I were in the car driving to pick the twins up from practice, and when we got to practice I jumped out of the car and ran into the dugout and grabbed one of the bats out of the rack and. . . . “One more month,” I tell her, and then hang up. It feels good and hopeful, to have that deadline, to know everything will be back to normal soon. The bus arrives. It’s a twenty minute ride. For the first ten minutes I feel virtuous, the way people who don’t usually take public transportation feel when they take public transportation. Inside the bus the air is warm, and smells like boots and candy. Outside the world is alive with snow. Bunnies of it are swirling around on the streets. I see someone on the sidewalk tip his head up and open his mouth and wait for the snow to fall in. What a great thing to do! What a great world that gives us a chance to do it!

Then the bus stops at a bus stop. This is not so strange, of course. But nobody gets on, and nobody gets off except for the driver, who runs across the street and into a combination KFC/Taco Bell. There is something extremely disturbing about bus drivers who abandon their buses mid-route and who then sprint across the street into fast-food restaurants, leaving you to wonder about the severity of their diarrhea. But then again, maybe the guy is just really hungry. Let’s not think about the bus driver, I tell myself, let’s focus on the guy trying to catch snowflakes with his tongue. He’s still at it, head back, mouth open, tongue out. This goes on for another couple of minutes, to the point where it stops seeming sweet, or magical, and starts seeming that maybe something is wrong with the guy, that he’s some sort of pervert, insatiable for snow, or that he tipped his head back and it got stuck that way and that he’s just helplessly waiting for someone to notice his plight and push his head forward or at least call a doctor. No one does. He stays like that for at least five minutes. Meanwhile people are making mutinous noises on the bus, which is still running. A man near the front of the bus yells, “Does anyone here know how to drive a bus?” and another man in the row in front of me yells back, “I do!” and a woman in the seat next to him says, “No, you do not.”  Then they furiously whisper at each other. I can’t hear what they’re whispering, but I can imagine that it might be something like what Therese and I would have been whispering had she told me about her and Eric while on the bus instead of in our car. In our car, we did not whisper; we shouted. At least, I did; I shouted some awful things, including how I was going to kill Eric. I didn’t kill him, of course. But I did hit him in the knee with that bat, which was aluminum. It made an awful sound—somewhere between crack! and ding!—and I’m convinced it was the sound more than the sight of my striking their coach, my best friend, that made the twins start crying, and then of course Therese started crying, and then of course I started crying, and then some of the other kids on the team who had nothing to do with anything started crying and pretty soon everyone on the field was crying, everyone except for Eric, who was sitting on the ground, holding his knee, but otherwise looking quite calm, quite adult, quite handsome, and God, I wanted to hit him with that bat again, and the twins must have sensed that because they tried to wrestle the bat away from me, saying, Daddy, no, why, why are you trying to hurt Coach Eric (they called him Coach Eric) and do you know that I was upset enough to say, Why don’t you ask Coach Eric and your mother why, and. . . . There is nothing else for me to do on the bus but think about all this, and so I do that and I do that until another passenger shouts, “There he is!” I look out the window and see the bus driver running back across the street. “There he is!” I repeat, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see a person in my life, until I notice that the bus driver doesn’t have any food with him and so there is no doubt about what he went into the restaurant to do and then he climbs back into the bus and waves at us in apology and I notice that he’s still wearing his fingerless gloves and I wonder if he took them off when he wiped himself and I wonder if a month is going to be enough time, if any amount of time is ever going to be enough time, and then I feel sick and know that I either should have just taken the ride from Therese or not gone home at all.

Back to top ↑

Sign up for Our Email Newsletter