I notice the flashing of yellow over yellow, the lights of the school bus sending me a warning. My brain knows there’s a proper response, but searches foggily for what that response may be. My reflexes move my foot from the gas to the brake, procedural memory telling me what my thoughts haven’t come up with yet. The bus and I come to a stop, yellow changing to red. We wait.
Some fog drifts by and drips on my windshield. Nothing else happens.
The lights turn off and the bus starts moving again, STOP sign folding up neatly.
My car rolls ahead, and I glance at the abandoned bus stop as I pass, vaguely wondering if there’s a child somewhere getting a reprimand for missing the school bus. What is that like? Knowing you missed the bus? That your day is off to a rocky start? I didn’t ride the bus as a child, so I don’t know what that feels like.
I arrive at the office, stepping carefully across the puddled parking lot. I drip on the carpet. I stare at my computer. I listen, as people around me talk. I drink coffee, hoping for a miracle from the dark nectar of the gods.
“Should you be here?” My coworker’s voice is skeptical.
“Are you not feeling well?” My bosses’ faces seem amused. No, concerned. What is that expression? I give up on placing it, deciding it doesn’t matter.
I go home, lie in bed.
“What do you need?” My roommate is persistent in asking a question I appreciate but can barely understand.
“What happened?” A dinner guest sounds ignorant to me, as though a single event explains everything.
What happened? I missed the bus. That’s what happened. I missed the bus to Functionville. And there’s no recovery from that, it seems.
Have you ever missed that bus?
It feels like
weight coming down, limbs pulled into the mattress, head too heavy to hold up.
lights so bright and glaring that they sting my eyes and burn the outside of my skin, like a day in the desert.
sounds that overwhelm my ears, people’s voices turning into constant noises like car horns in traffic.
my pulse slowing until my blood cools in my veins, circulation changing and fingers and toes going white.
a headache, the kind that both pulses and stabs, defying any power that caffeine and ibuprofen have ever had.
sadness, weariness, loneliness, fear, anger, bitterness, and above all, the sense that nothing will ever be right or easy.
It feels like there is no recovery. No bus that takes me back to the world of “normal” or even “halfway human.” I can’t get there from here.
It feels like “lost.”
But today is better. Today is clear enough to write these words, to say hello, to ask for forgiveness. Today I climb on the bus whose route heads toward “life,” and the driver smiles when he punches my ticket.
Today I made it on the bus.