I gave up taking the subway for Lent.
Okay, not really. But on a whim last week, I skipped the long, scary escalator descent into the underground and got on a bus I had no clue would get me anywhere close to work. I roughly knew the route, but not every twist and turn, not every block.
The first day I took this bus, I got spooked midway through the route and hopped off at a very familiar corner. I stood there like an idiot for a few minutes, wondering why I was so easily thrown by the unknown, and decided to walk the rest of the long way to my restaurant. I bypassed both the train and the bus on the return trip and walked home later that evening to atone for being afraid of the unknown.
The next day, I made a conscious decision to leave home earlier in order to take the bus–and I told myself I had to go much further along the route, just to see where it went. When three buses pulled up to my stop all at once, all with different route numbers, but all apparently going the same way, I picked the third and least crowded one and took a window seat.
It was still so cold outside, but the sun shone warm through the glass. I leaned my head against the window and closed my eyes, pretending for just a moment that the warmth was for real and that I was nowhere near my city.
When you close your eyes on a bus and the sun is shining through the window, you can pretend to be on a beach, soaking up that sun. When you close your eyes on a bus and lean your head against the window, others avoid sitting next to you, which allows you to pretend for a little while longer that you are on a beach. When you close your eyes on a bus and lean your head against a window, you can let your mind wander and wander.
I wandered back to a time 18-plus-months ago, when I didn’t know a cover from a four-top, and I wondered in that wandering how so much had transpired in the intervening time between then and now. How was it that I am where I am now? How was it that I had traveled so far in so short a time? I am thankful for this, if not still a little shell shocked.
I wandered to my imaginary perfect job in the perfect-sized restaurant, where it is possible to work the floor and interact with always-smiling guests every shift, where I plan and never double book the special events for these smiling guests, where I am always the golden girl in the eyes of every manager of every shift. You have to smile at that one. I did, with my eyes closed.
I wandered back and forth to crazy, funny times with former coworkers from my first restaurant–some of whom were such good friends back then–none of whom I see anymore. And I wondered in that wandering how each of these friends is faring, and if all is well. Do they remember me and think of me, as fondly and as affectionately as I remember them? If I could, I would hug each and every one of them and tell them, “I miss you.”
When you close your eyes on a bus and the sun is shining through the window, you can wander far, and then you feel a tiny sliver of peace.
I will ride this bus again tomorrow, and the next day, and eventually I will figure out the closest stop to work. Until then, I am beginning to like this slow ride above ground, no matter how long it takes.