“Write a story from the point of view of a homeless man or woman who falls asleep on the bus and accidentally end up “on the other side of the tracks,” in a quiet neighborhood late at night. ”
Cars make me nervous. Buses make me nervous. Walking makes me nervous. So why then, am I not nervous to ask strangers for assistance? Why am I not nervous when I see the good side of humanity? There is no good side of humanity, just individuals. For instance, the bus driver I encountered two nights ago. I don’t even know his name, why can’t I remember his name? He didn’t bother me when I dozed off on his bus. He let me sleep, he must have seen the tired in my eyes. Bless his heart. The young man who nudged me awake was nice and all, but he surely must have been making fun of me by suggesting I get off the bus when we reached his stop, which happened to be near the projects. Silence makes me nervous, and that’s all that greeted me as I stepped off that bus.
I waited at the bus stop with a 7-11 cup in my hand, a cigarette in my mouth, and six dollars and forty-one cents in my pocket next to my lighter and pack of smokes. After bus fare I would have less than five dollars to my name. That was just enough to get breakfast in the morning, which I hoped never came. I was so pleased when that bus arrived, it meant I could sleep somewhat comfortably for about an hour, until I reached my stop. I was heading to a friends house, she said I could crash on her couch, well technically it wasn’t her couch, it was her friends couch. Apparently she met some guy at a CODA meeting and was staying with him. Oh Jordyn, she cycles through her support group hook ups faster than Oprah through dress sizes. She reminds me of my mother, maybe that’s why I cling to her so hard. She always helps me out with places to stay and odd jobs. That was my destination, anywhere my safety net was staying, regardless of who she was fucking. The driver smiled at me as I stepped on. I dismiss smiles, usually people only smile at someone like me because they feel obligated to be politically correct. I made my way toward the back of the bus, where there were two empty seats, that always makes me excited because I can’t put my legs up and relax. It must have been closing time at a nearby business, the bus was almost full, as is usual during the last bus of the night. Lucky me, I had two seats to myself.
I pulled my hoodie over my head, slightly over my eyes, I have never understood why the lights on buses must be so bright. I glanced at my watch, forgetting the batteries were dead. I took the last sip of my soda and casually lay the empty styrofoam cup under my seat. I had every intention of taking it with me and disposing of it when I got off. I leaned my head back, listening to the sounds on the bus. Music from someone’s headphones, quiet conversation between co-workers, and coughing from a young child, those were the sounds that lulled me to sleep. I dreamt of the streets. I was being chased by a parrot who squawked curse words at me. I ran and ran and ran, finally making my way into a taxi. I ordered the driver to take me to the zoo so that we could find that obviously abused parrot a home. The driver of that taxi was a mean old man, who I realize now was my father. He reached to the back of the cab and swatted at my arm. I jolted awake. A guy was patting at my arm, anxiously spouting, “Yo, lets go man, you been sleeping for a while. Last stop of the night, come on man, get up.” I was still coming to as I stood up and made my way to the front of the bus. “Have a good night sir.” I nodded to the driver as he closed the doors. Damn it, I forgot my trash on the bus.
I stretched my arms high above my head, which caused my hoodie to fall back onto my shoulders. I reached for my pack of smokes, and sadly I had one left. I knew it would be my last one until who knew when. I also knew Jordyn smoked. “Fuck it.” I thought and I lit up. By the time I took my first drag, the guy who had woken me up had disappeared into the shadows hastily. I looked around, and no wonder, I was on Holden Road, land of prostitutes. The name had become symbiotic with the hookers, they were always “Holden” someone or something. I became extremely nervous. I turned around but that bus was long gone. I was miles from my intended stop, and I didn’t know the phone number where Jordyn was staying. I panicked for a moment. I smoked a tad faster than normal. My thoughts began to race. I felt bad I had ignored that bus drivers smile, he was nice enough to leave me alone while I slept. I was tired, so very tired. I thought about how rudely that punk woke me up and basically forced me off the bus. I felt like a victim of my own life. I paced on that street, not sure which direction I should go. I contemplated the fastest way to get to Jordyn. The silence was nerve-wracking. As I looked around, I saw run down cars that matched run down apartments. Broken glass was everywhere, glistening in the street lights. A pair of shoes hung above me. A gas station across the street called my name. I stepped on my cigarette and made my way toward it. What the hell was I gonna do?
“Coffee, I could get coffee.” I thought. I needed any excuse to make myself a paying customer, as to not draw negative attention to myself. I bet that gas station attendant had a gun behind that counter. I walked around slowly and filled a small cup of coffee, it would only cost me sixty-nine cents. I giggled as the attendant told me my total. As I walked out of that gas station, the nervousness was wearing off. I was just plain scared now. I have slept on many a street, I have endured freezing cold nights with no blanket, and I have gone days with no food, but never in this part of town. I was near tears when a busted old brown car pulled up right behind me. “Yo!” A voice yelled at me. I ignored it and began walking faster, nearing a job the voice shouted again, “Yo, get in man, I’ll give you a ride!” I knew I shouldn’t turn, but my head couldn’t help it. I turned around and wouldn’t ya know it, it was that young man from the bus. He pulled his car closer to me and I entered the passenger side. “Where ya headed bro?” Maybe I had everything all wrong.
I learned his name was Dorian. He drove me to Jordyn’s booty palace and the whole while we had decent conversation. He told me about the hard times him and his parents fell on which was why they stayed in the more, how would you say, economic part of town. He was in high school getting ready for college. Dorian, what an interesting name. Turns out his dad had a hard on for Doris Day, and he swore I’m the only person he ever revealed the roots of his name to. It also turns out he borrowed his neighbors car to come see if I needed a ride. He said he could tell I was a bit discombobulated. The radio was on the whole time, but it crackled and I barely heard it over the talking. When we arrived at the apartment complex I was to be crashing out in, Dorian shook my hand and I felt like such an asshole. I thanked him profusely for coming back to give me a lift. He wrote down his phone number on the back of a Jack In The Box receipt that was tossed on the floor of the car. Told me to hit him up some time and I fully intend to. As I got out of the car, Dorian chuckled and said, “Man, how old are you?” I hesitated, but finally said, “Fourteen.” Maybe it was the shock in his eyes when I told him my age, or maybe it was finally telling someone how hard it was being on the streets, but in that moment, I realized, I had become a man somewhere on the rough road I travelled. “Listen little man, you take care of yourself. And don’t fall asleep on buses! That jack ass driver probably would have called the cops on you had I not gotten you off the bus.” Dorian sounded like a parent. “Maybe, maybe not.” I waved and Dorian drove away.
I made my way to apartment 287 and knocked on the door. Jordyn let me in, and I told her about my night and then promptly crashed out on the couch. My dreams were different that night. I dreamt of friends and Doris Day. When I woke up, I had a whole new perspective on life in general. I had my morning smoke compliments of Jordyn, and with a smile on my face, I walked to the bus stop, anxious to see who I would meet on my next ride, and since I had slept through the night and had coffee that morning, there was no way in hell I’d be falling asleep.