By John Saporito
The midnight bus rolled past the stop where no passengers awaited pickup and none aboard wanted off, climbing up the bridge and then down the hill past the blur of streetlights that glinted in the Rorschach night. In the front the driver was alone. No one seated for ten rows behind him. The heater puffed out a few languid breaths and he leaned in to accept them. At the next stop was a man standing on the curb. He eased to a brake and the door opened and the winter night gusted in and so did the man. The door shut and the chill passed like a ghost over the aisle and broke in the air. “Mornin,” said the man. The driver nodded and the man sat down behind him.
In the back a half dozen passengers sat solemn in their tattered seats, huddled up in coats and scarves and clutching their belongings like migrants on a polar train. An old man with his cane looked down at the seat next to him. His wife once sat there. He looked across the aisle at the mother with her children, one child in the seat and the other in her arms, draped over her and sleeping while mom kept vigil in the dark.
Through the tunnel where the sounds of other cars swung close and passed by. A woman in the corner spoke no English. She was leaving one job and going to the next, tired beyond the possibility of dreaming. A lady across from her sipped coffee and pulled on mittens and braced for the day. She smiled and winked at one of the children who was beginning to stir and who waved back and then turned and buried her face in her mother’s neck.
“Momma,” said the girl, “I’m hungry. Can I have my cereal now?”
“No, dear. We are almost home.”
“But I’m hungry now.”
“I know. Twenty minutes and you can have your cereal and your juice.”
“OK.” She put her head down and fell asleep.
At the next stop the old man rose and took his cane and stepped toward the front. He nodded to the driver who chewed his gum and nodded back. The bus sank on its wheels and the man climbed off and vanished into the blackness. Then the door closed and the bus climbed up on its axles and made off down the street, past the intersection where another bus was stopped across the median for people getting on and off to start their day or end their day or to reach the next stop on another line where the bus went east or west to whatever start or end their day had meant for them.
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John Saporito is the first-place winner of the League of Utah Writers 2019 writing contest. He has been shortlisted in both the Writers’ Workshop of Asheville memoirs contest and the William Faulkner-William Wisdom creative writing contest. His work has been published in Woods Reader and he contributes regular columns to Coastal Angler Magazine. To keep the lights on, John is a full-time bartender. He plies this trade near his southwest Florida home.