On my way to work each morning, I take the same bus, at the same time. I see the same characters each morning. The overweight IT guy who takes up a full seat and who keeps a cigarette in his hand to light as soon as he gets off. The contrary madam who never lets anyone sit beside her. The dark haired woman at the front who always looks at her phone. The girl with very fine, light blond hair who always wears the same multi-coloured hat. And the two boys.
They’re young, not more than twelve. One is small build, dark skinned, and judging from his accent born in America, though he’s been here a while. Enthusium bursts from him, even at the early hour. The other is taller, blond, German, and very logical in how he thinks. Together they’ll debate musicians, films, TV shows as the bus makes its way into town. In Winter they’d play noughts and crosses on the wet glass, variations always ending in a standoff, and leaving the battlefield for us to look at when they got off to go to school.
And then one day, it stopped. What replaced it was a silence one morning I assumed was due to tiredness. But it didn’t seemed relieved at all. Instead, the German boy would talk to another child his age, and an older boy. The older boy was fifteen or more, and had about him an air hungry for appreciation. He would sit with the German and spin tales of drug abuse on Batman sets, mad escapes of daredevils, insane things he had done at the weekend. The boys would giggle at this insanity, fascinated, and not exchange a word with anyone else.
All the while the American would sit across from them, alone in his seat, back rigid with not looking over. He would get out at an earlier stop and make his way on his own to school.
Last Friday the German wasn’t there, for the second day in a row. The American ignored the boring twittering of the older boy. No indication did he give of hearing a single word. But as he stood up to leave the bus, he gave the pair a glance that was molten in its fury. They didn’t see it, and I with my music in my ears, wondered at the events that could have inspired such a look. Was it a childish nothing? Or was there a real schism going on, the kind we always remember years later? There’s no way to know. No way to know. And the bus travels on without them, the world of their arguing unmoved as it goes away.