Romania third place of short story contest

ESTRANGED

Ruxandra Mogosan

One of my favourite hobbies is analysing people on the bus. Who knows, maybe one day I will see God, trying to make his way home. Anyway, it is quite an adventure to notice the people on the bus. Everyone in that little matchbox has a pretty interesting story hide behind the walls, behind their glumly eyes. I have to admit that they are a pretty catchy mixture of generations, style, education and attitude.

In the afternoon there is the climax, the meeting between the so called “children of the bad Revolution”, the retired people and the mountain dew, I mean the teenagers. The grannies and grandpas are going to the market, while we are going to school, preparing for retiring someday.

You see, dear reader, the old people and the teenagers just can’t get along together in our society. Our kids are living too fast for the elderly to understand. The speed means everything. Meanwhile, our oldies are just trying to remain on their feet when we run by them.

Sometimes, it is our fault. We don’t even stop to look back at them, not mentioning helping them. Some of us don’t even offer the seat to an old person being rude towards a helpless octogenarian.

Some other times, grandpas push their way without asking for permission, mumbling about how uneducated we are. They hit us in our guts and offend us by their manner of speaking and their angry staring.

It was a rainy Tuesday afternoon. My friend, Amy, and I were waiting at the bus stop for our drive. I was observing even the people from the bus stop. Almost all the time there was a different mixture with the same priorities but one person was always there, with no exception. Small and fragile, white-haired, holding a stick in her right hand, having a peaceful image. She was that kind of an old lady whom you would want to be your grandma. She seemed to know a lot of secrets of the humanity.

That day the bus was already filled with people. But we had no other choice than squeeze ourselves in. If not, we would have missed the English class. Hardly had we got on the bus when everyone started melting in the mixture. The old lady was right next to me and I could observe her better from that distance. She was dolled up, looking like a queen, royal and arrogant somehow, but still kind.

“Ouch!” I cried when her sharp stick got on my foot.

“Oh, sorry, deary, but you should have kept you feet safe.” She replied with superiority.

Anger filled me like a poison. I was about to explode because of her remark. Then I just looked around and I found out that she was right. My reaction, even if I didn’t show up my fury, was unjustified. There was no space for my feet to have the luxury of stretching.

I have always been an unusual girl. My mother told me that I had a chameleonic soul. I get angry for a reason or because of a person to find out lately how right that person was or how stupid that thing was. That happened then. I immediately felt sorry for my reaction. The rest of the way I remained quiet and sad somehow. And all of it just because of me.

The image of the old lady on the bus remained in my mind for the rest of the day. Later that night, I realized that I had seen a gleam in her eyes, something that somehow told me to continue the discussion, as if she had wanted a fight with me, as if she had challenged me to respond.

Next day, on Wednesday, there she was again. I was kind of glad to see her. She seemed not to even notice me. Something inside me was telling me to go talk to her, to apologize for the day before, but another part of me kept me inactive.

Shortly after, the bus came and, lucky me, it was almost empty. We got on and I watched her getting the only free seat in there. There wasn’t anyone standing, since everyone had a seat, so the whole standing place was just mine.

Should I go and talk to her now? Should I apologize for yesterday? My thoughts were overwhelming me and they were dragging me in a state of melancholy and guilt. I should have solved the “problem” since yesterday. That feeling of guilt was about to haunt me for a long time to come.

But, surprisingly, my mood didn’t keep long. At the next station a boy got on the bus, that type of “bad boy”, a sort of James Dean, but ugly and uppish, with his band of bullies. He was looking, of course, for a seat. They all were looking for a seat for their leader.

I froze when their eyes stopped on the old lady. The bullies started walking towards her, whispering and giggling.

“Hey, granny! You see, my feet hurt and I really need a place to seat. Would you mind giving me your seat?” the leader spoke.

You can be fooled by the way our boy spoke. But, in reality, you could have read the malice on his face.

He bent over her, threateningly, as if there were a sequel that he didn’t say.

“Well, young man, I am just an old lady who is going to the market. My feet are hurting me all the time. Can you see that young lady standing there?” and she pointed a finger towards me. “She is the only passenger here standing and, on top of that, she is carrying a huge backpack full of books. And I have never seen her sitting down on the bus or asking for a seat.”

It is true. I never sit on the bus. I always let the others. I can still handle the sudden break of the driver or the weight of my backpack. That means I’m still young. When I really need it, I guarantee you that I will sit down on the bus.

But I was still puzzled at hearing her words. Maybe it was because she gave me as an example, or maybe because I realized that in all that time she was analyzing me, too.

“Now, you can follow her example or you can find another person to bother, but one thing I know for sure that you won’t get my seat.” She said determined.

The anger was growing in him every second and his face became red as blood. I was really afraid that he was about to explode in front of me.

“Listen, lady, I want your seat! Get up or I don’t know what I’m capable of!” he said spitting with venom on her poor lady.

I couldn’t stand his behavior. How could he just look at her like that but talk? The adrenaline swept me and, oh, my God, that wasn’t good at all.

“Or what?” I raised my voice upon the whispering of the bullies. “You’re going to hit a helpless old lady? Good for you! You’ll be someone in this city, am I right?” I said with a huge dose of irony.

It felt good for a moment to be brave because the next moment I got scared. All of them turned to me and they were angrier, more ferocious and wicked. It seemed like I was the next target. But, fortunately, a man from the back of the bus came beside me and said:

“Guys, here’s the deal: you let the two ladies alone and get off the bus at the next station and I won’t kick your butt and then call the police. Otherwise, I will keep my promise.”

I wasn’t surprised to see the bullies backing off with fear on their faces. The man who defended us was a real K1 fighter. But if he weren’t there, I don’t know if my karate knowledge could have been enough.

As the K1 fighter said, the bullies got off the bus at the next station and I had never seen them again.

“Thank you, Mr., for defending us.” I said to our savior.

“No problem. I was as disturbed by their behavior as you were. But, next time, for your sake, try to learn how to keep your mouth shout. I don’t know if I’ll be there or someone else will.”, he said parentally.

“I will.” I said full of gratitude. I had finally gathered enough courage and I went to the old lady to ask her if she was fine.

“Oh, deary, I dealt with people worse than that. Thank you for trying to help me. It was really nice of you. What about you?” she asked. “I’m fine. A little scared, but fine. I am Rose Hatthaway.” I said while I was stretching my hand to her. She held it and said “I am Adelaide Fairchild. Rose, can you explain me why teenagers are so rude nowadays?” she asked.

“Tough question! » It depends on education, I guess.” I answered. “But you are not like them. No, you aren’t. I saw your anger yesterday and you were right to be angry because I put my stick on purpose on your foot. But you didn’t react. Why?” she said challenging. “I just didn’t. I found out that you were right after a while. Why did you do that?”

I saw a gleam in her eyes again. I couldn’t figure out what that was just after had she spoken.

“I am estranged. I don’t belong to this world anymore. It is your turn to live. I am old and useless. No kids, no nephews, nothing left behind me. I guess I was gellous on your youth.”

She was feeling alienated in her own world.

“No, you’re not. Old, young, bored, alive, we all belong to this world. You don’t have to feel estranged. You just have to find someone whom you can share your knowledge with and your stories as well.”

I didn’t even realize when she got up her seat. And when the bus stopped in the station at the market and the doors opened, the last thing she said before getting off was “I guess I have just found someone” and she winked.

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