by Rebecca Waukau
The notebook was tattered, the binding bent and cracked like a well-traveled road. There was no name on the front, just a marbling of black, white, and what looked like old stains of blood.
I knew I should have run after the woman who just got off the bus. The girl whose blood and tears were contained in this mess of a notebook, but my desire to peer into her soul, her mind, her fantasies, made my feet stick to the floor of the bus as if a thousand wads of chewing gum were holding them down. I tried to force myself to call out after her, but my voice could not travel out of my mouth, instead it raced to my brain, where it shouted, “GRAB THE BOOK,” and then whispered, “put it in your backpack before anyone sees!”. And I listened.
I grabbed the bag and put it in my backpack. I recognized the voice in my head.
It was the same voice that dared me to keep driving instead of turning into the parking lot of the local wholesale club for my work shift when I was 20 years old. The same voice that I heard every time I swung into my family’s house to grab a shower and a clean set of clothes, reminding me my little brother’s ADHD pills were in the medicine cabinet, and he wouldn’t miss one or two.
I suppose you could say that voice and I go way back. You’d think I’d have learned all the different ways to ignore it by now, but what can I say, I’m impulsive.
So there I sat, on the back of a city bus, clutching the backpack that sat on my lap to my chest. My sweaty hands white knuckling the thing, trying to remember where I was heading before this distraught, angelic, mess of a woman came into my utterly miserable life.
At the next stop, I quickly rose from my seat, passing the old woman sitting with her relentless grandchild- the little girl never stopped talking the entire bus ride, even as she peered through her stringy bangs, gray blue eyes watching me.
Did she see me toss the notebook into my bag? Could she hear my heart pumping through my chest? It felt like she was inside my head, listening to my racing thoughts, chiding me in that sing song-y voice little girls love to use when they know you did something wrong, something they feel the need to forewarn you that they’re going to squeal on you.
“I saw what you did. I’m telling her.”
Of course, this was just my paranoia speaking. Her grandmother, after all, didn’t seem to actually be paying attention, just staring out the window, answering the child with, “Um hmm,” or, “I don’t know Hunny.”
I strode past the teenager sitting towards the middle of this, suddenly far too long bus. He had music pounding from his earbuds. Loud, hypnotizing, electronica beats that would drown out any thoughts, words, or memories. No, I didn’t worry about him stopping me.
The rest of the passengers on this #1405 city bus were a blur, as I raced by them, past the overweight, sweaty bus driver who grunted at me as I almost tumbled down the steep steps.
My feet hit the warm, littered street, jumped up onto the curb, and suddenly they felt as though they were walking on air. It’s as if my old, worn out, gray running shoes suddenly sprouted wings. As I walked north, blending in with the busy lunch crowd-all scurrying off to catch a bite, or a drink (or three), before hurrying back to their boring, menial, cubicle dwelling jobs, I suddenly felt alive.
Just an hour before I was a nobody, with no job, no prospects, no life, really. But now, now I had this book. This book, which so clearly held the secrets of this mysterious woman, the innermost workings of her mind.
I felt this strange, warm sensation flowing through my body. Suddenly, my face felt flush, as though all my blood felt cold and stagnant, but was suddenly flowing warmer and faster through my veins than it had in years. I hadn’t even cracked it open, and yet, somehow I knew my life would never be the same.
I wondered to myself if other people ever had that feeling- knowing that in one split-second, your life, which just moments before had been one way, would now never go back to the way it was. It’s like the earth shifts and you find yourself on another plane. Like you’re standing on the edge of a cliff, your adrenaline pumping, feeling on top of the world, knowing with one step you could be flying.
I know, I know. It’s just a book. It’s just a girl. Why should life feel any different?
But it does. And I like it. Suddenly, I feel powerful. I feel intrigued. I feel SOMETHING.
And I like the way it feels…
To Be Continued…