She takes the bus to work. In her small city, the bus is the most inefficient mode of transportation. She should walk the thirty minutes, or bike, but she has her bag with the kids’ reading response notebooks and her laptop and her planner and her ceramic travel coffee mug. She texts Marcy. Can you start for me? Lex is teaching all day today. Lex is teaching every day this week. It’s her full week of student teaching. She worked up to this subject by subject, and after this Lex will teach less and less for two weeks and then she’ll be gone.
Did your car break down? Marcy texts back. You know Grant lives out that way, he could’ve given you a lift.
Too late, she texts back. Next time.
The truth is, her car is snug under the carport at her apartment, waiting for her to press the ignition button, waiting for her to idle at the stoplights and pass the slowpokes and turn left on 28th, which always means three light cycles at 7:30 a.m. The truth is that even with traffic, cars are the easiest and best mode of transportation from her apartment to the school. The truth is, this morning in her whole wheat toast with peanut butter and honey, she saw a flash of T-bone impact. Grill crumpling into green door. A flash of herself in that same flowered hospital gown her mother wore at 38, metal braces holding her together, thin plastic tubes pumping life back in. The truth is, she should shake it off like Taylor Swift and do what’s rational and odds are she’s going to be just fine but she’s improving the odds of her mental health this very moment.
She looks around the bus in search of solidarity. The woman across the aisle with the plastic grocery bags bulging with oranges and soft bread averts her eyes, the mother in front of her smooths down hair into a barrette.
The bus is long-suffering. She could use this time to grade math tests or plan social studies. She could be more efficient. She’d have to get up earlier. She couldn’t be late every day. Marcy would look at her with narrowed eyes. Marcy who could easily teach but instead is a paraprofessional, who is not going to do a teacher’s job on an assistant’s salary. Marcy who will be the one to hold the class together after all, and who will be the one to bring flowers and set them on the adjustable table, sliding them until they rest on the same plane as her gaze; Marcy who will be looking out the window as she crosses the street balancing her bag and coffee, the bus having just spit her out on the curve before the school, the curve that signage says to take at 25 miles per hour, but no one does. It will be Marcy who calls in the accident, who runs out and holds her broken hand on the wet pavement, who tells her to hang in there, who will never ask again why she didn’t drive that day.
Wendy BooydeGraaff’s fiction and essays have been included in X-R-A-Y, The Brooklyn Review, Miracle Monocle, NOON, and elsewhere. Born and raised in Ontario, Canada, she now lives in Michigan, United States. Follow her on Twitter at @BooyTweets.
Photo by Ash Gerlach on Unsplash