“Damn it, damn it, damn it, (breathe), DAMN IT! Oof. Ow. Damn it, damn it, damn it….”
Sarah took the apartment stairs two at a time, usually jumping down the last three or four to each landing in an effort to save time. As usual, she was late. For some reason, she always managed to convince herself that she had a few extra minutes to make more tea, or read one more article. Then, inevitably, she had to run to the bus and arrive breathless and red-faced to work. Berating herself with every step, she willed time to move more slowly and for herself to move faster.
Slamming into the landings jarred her legs, and they began to shake in annoyance. Ignoring them, she focused only on her poor attempt to fly.
Upon reaching the bottom, she whipped open the stairwell door and spun out and to the right, gripping the doorframe for leverage. This maneuver was one which was very familiar, and her body reacted almost automatically in balancing itself and sending her on her way. However, any little variance in the motion and she could find herself slamming into the hallway wall or tripping and landing on her nose. Still, nine times out of ten, it worked.
Obviously, this was a tenth time.
She slammed into the wall, her arm wrenching unmercifully in its socket, stalling her forward momentum. Bloody hell, Sarah swore at herself, afraid that she would lose time. She picked herself up and pushed off the bricks, immediately stretching her unfit frame into a jog.
Sometimes she felt like she was a professional downhill skier, knocking down the slalom flags and trying to keep her movements as consistent as possible. Unconsciously, she checked her bag and adjusted her coat as she headed towards the bus stop, her thin arms now flailing back and forth at her sides like limp spaghetti.
She could see the silver-blue bus facing away from her in the distance, patiently waiting for the time to leave. It often arrived early at the stop, it being the last (or first) on the route, then waited for the clock to hit the half hour before leaving again. Sarah had set her watch by the bus clock. Her heart beat in anticipation of seeing the brake lights flash on the rear, meaning the driver had turned the bus back on and was preparing to move out. She jogged a little faster.
Her bag banged her hip with every step, aggravating the little bruise that seemed to form there every morning. It was a small briefcase with a shoulder harness – black. It was bought back in the time of the (ugh) interviews, when she had wanted to look smart for the employers. Now she wished it were a backpack. Of course, a backpack would probably just form a small bruise on my lower back, she thought wryly, ‘cause I’d still be running.
She was gaining on the bus, and she thought she would probably make it. The pain in her chest from her ragged breathing began to worsen, and she slowed the jog down. She waved at the back of the bus, hoping Ben, the driver, would see her and wait. Ben knew her pretty well (as "the late one," bless his weasel heart) and usually kept an eye out. On the few days that she actually managed to be early, he usually made some smart remark about being amazed or shocked. Sarah loved to perform her best snarl in return. Damn, she hoped the bastard was looking out for her.
Just when she thought she was okay, the rear lights came on.
"WAIT!" she screamed, followed by various calls of "Hold on! Wait for me! I’m almost there! I’m coming! Damn it! I SAID I’m coming! Damn, damn, damn, da (breathe!) amn…." She reached the bus as it began to pull away, and used the age-old technique of banging loudly on the side and shouting madly. The bus screeched to a halt, the brakes exhaling loudly.
How Sarah loved that sound.
The doors parted, and she looked up at the driver, her mouth still agape in indignation at almost being left behind. Ben leaned on the wheel, regarding her with dancing eyes and a smug smile. Panting and shaking her heavy head, she stepped slowly on, swiping her card through with as much disdain as she could muster.
"Your welcome," he called to her retreating back as she walked to the back.
"Bastard," she responded, causing Ben to break into untroubled laughter as he pulled out into traffic.
The usual crowd graced the seats this morning. Sarah smiled at the old lady with the dog in her flowered handbag and at the cute construction worker on his way downtown (at least she guessed he was in construction, based on his appearance, even though she had never actually spoken to him). Both sat in the row front seats that paralleled the side of the bus. She also nodded at her fellow suits in the regular seats who, and this was a rare occurrence, would look up from their papers. One of them whipped the pages of the Financial Times as she slipped past, as if annoyed by her gall for actually trying to get past him to a seat. She shot the back of his head a nasty look.
Near the back, she sandwiched herself next to a rather large man in a stained trench coat. As with most women, she hesitated sitting next to an unknown man, especially one as scruffy as this fellow, but the choices were limited. Barely glancing at her, he harrumphed as he gruffly pulled his pack off the seat to make room for her and turned to stare out the window. Pointedly, she stared at the side of his head for a while, daring him to look back. She smiled when he gave up trying to ignore her.
"Thank you," she smiled brightly, "for moving your pack."
He blinked at her a few times in confusion, unsure as to why she was talking to him. Nervously, he responded by nodding and muttering "sure, sure," before quickly turning away again. Sarah settled herself back into the seat and smirked.
The silver-blue bus grumbled through the traffic, making its overweening presence known as it crowded out the insignificant Lincoln towncars and BMWs on their way to work. Any question as to who owned this road vanished as Ben leaned on the tugboat horn to force back an upstart Lexus. No one beats the bus. It frightened the pedestrians with its wide turns, and the sound of Ben yelling at the cabs cutting the bus off made Sarah oddly happy. As solid as the elephant, nothing short of a poacher's rifle was going to take this beast down.
She was in a good mood. Sarah loved taking the bus because it made her feel like an insider. Tourists never took the bus, and neither did the suburb commuters who took the trains. Only city folk took the bus, and this was her bus, in her city, existing just for her. She thought, if she were to move, this bus would disappear. Pursing her lips, she flexed an eyebrow at this concept and decided not to move for a long time.
The morning got even better when, at the next stop, the trench coat man got off. Leaning into the luxury of two seats, Sarah shifted to look out the grimy, scratched window. Briefly, she thought of scratching her own name into the window. She looked forward at the other passengers and tried to imagine what they were thinking.
She caught the construction worker looking her way. She smiled, and he blushed, turning quickly to stare at his feet.
It was going to be a good day.