The city is grey. Grey like the dawn. The air is damp and cool. Not that I’d really know, being stuck behind this cursed wheel, but every time the doors open with a swish the breeze wafts in and relieves this dreadful tedium. The traffic is heavy today, which isn’t great, because it means my shift will be longer. Still, I can look out the window.
I can see daffodil stems sway in the breeze, trying valiantly to hold the heavy weight of the overblown flowers. I had wanted to be a horticulturist, and now look where I am. Dreaming of plants during a traffic jam. I should forget my past; I can never go back. I will never bury my hands in the rich black dirt and laugh with delight. Never run out of a movie theater because it had started raining and I was worried about my seedlings. I smooth my scratchy uniform across my knee. I can’t forget, so I turn back to the window.
The crocus buds are swelled and transparent. Their royal purple petals are poised and ready to uncurl. They have a life to look forward to, and for a short moment I am jealous. Then I catch sight of the broken stems and petals crushed from the rain, and I shake my head. No, they are just naïve.
I am sick and tired of seeing this city only through a windshield. Sick and tired of driving and dreaming of plants. I want to walk through the streets and feel the air brush against my sweaty face.
Only three more stops now; only three before another blue uniformed employee relieves me. I wonder if she cares about her job more than I, or if her dreams, too, have been abandoned. Three more stops.
The car in front of me inches forward and I do too. I pull over to the third-to-last stop with a screech, splashing water on the two people boarding: an old woman holding a blue purse, in which she fishes for her Metro card; and a girl, about ten years old, who is carrying a book and wearing green high-tops. The woman finds her card, pays, and retreats to the elderly seats. The girl pulls an orange student Metro card out of her book. She must have been using it as a bookmark. I remember how I used to press daisies between the translucent pages of my paperback dictionary. I would pull them out of my flowerbeds, but I could never bring myself to throw them away, so I pressed them. I’d leave them there for about a week and, when the week was up, turn to section ‘H’, and there they would be, pale yellow and white and the pale pink of a rosebud. The petals looked like fairy wings, and when I breathed on them, they would flutter as though my breath was a hurricane.
“Excuse me.” The voice snaps me out of my daydreaming. “Excuse me, miss.” It’s the girl, the one with green shoes. “Do you know the time?” she asks. I nod briskly, and twist my watch around to see the face.
“3:45,” I say and the girl nods.
“Thank you.” She shifts her backpack slightly and shuffles farther back into the bus.
A fine drizzle is beginning to fill the air. I remember how I used to turn my face up to the sky and spin around and around until I fell over, like a little girl. It felt like flying. I don’t have time for that anymore. The rain grows stronger and I listen to the uneven drumming on the roof. Rain begins to streak across the windshield, so I pull a lever and the windshield wipers start. The next stop is a block away, but I can already see that nobody is waiting, so I keep driving.
Finally, I pull over at the last stop. A wet figure in a blue uniform stands hunched over for warmth under the flimsy structure. I nod at him as he takes my place in front of the wheel. Hurriedly, I leave the bus and start walking towards my apartment. I turn my face up to the rain, and spin around, just a little. It can’t hurt. Soon I am twirling and dancing in the pouring rain. I might be crying, but maybe it is just the rain.
Age 13, Grade 8
Hunter College High School