FICTION: Remaindered

The bus is full.

There’s a strike on at the depot, and this is the only bus running today. Our usual driver has been replaced by an unpleasant man who has snarled at every passenger as they boarded and glared at them as they left.

There’s a man next to me. He is young and well turned out, although there is something about the suit that hints at it not being his. A hand-me-down, or at least picked out by someone else. He’s probably fresh out of college. His backpack is definitely more suited to a student. His lips are thin and cracked, and his eyes are puffy. He’s nervous.

I remember being young. Taking the bus to my first interview, wearing clothes borrowed from my mother. A navy pencil skirt and a cream silk blouse, neither of which fitted properly. I looked like somebody’s maiden aunt. I didn’t get the job, either.

He sits on the far edge of the seat, as far from me as possible. As if I am offensive to him. The cheek of him, when that bag of his smells like someone who’s had one too many.

I heave a heavy sigh and let my gaze drift. Soft focus through the window. A woman passes, walking a Min Pin on a lead. A group of school kids, maybe 12 years old, stand in a line outside the library, with a teacher at the end. I assume they’re a teacher, anyway.

That could have been you, I remind myself. Standing out there with the kids. Or waiting inside to help them find the book they need. But you had to be difficult. You had to tell yourself you were an artist, a visionary. And now where are you? On a bus for an hour every morning to the arse-end of nowhere, to sell remaindered books out of a garage in the suburbs.

An hour home again in the evening, to a greyed out flat with greyed out flatmates.

A life, remaindered.