Not Just Lines

As my lamp dimly lights my room, I’m shuffling through my bag, recounting everything I’ve already put in it. Three extra t-shirts, two pairs of jeans, a few undergarments, a water bottle, several granola bars, $500 in savings, and my favorite red sweatshirt from Scotland. I’m surprised as to how I managed to fit everything in such a small pack, but it’s managing to stay intact, so I won’t question it.

I’m smoothing out the wrinkles in my bed and aligning the pillows into perfect, equal distances. I walk towards my laptop, rummaging through all my files checking if I left anything. All my photos are deleted from my iPhoto, all homework assignments deleted, all files were put into the recycle bin, my history is wiped out, I shut off my iCloud, and I permanently delete every last bit that could possibly trace my existence.

I take one more moment to sit at the corner of my bed with black and maroon sheets, looking around my room. I stare at my bookshelf I managed to stock with books ever since my freshman year in high school. Four years down the road, and it’s piling with more than what it could carry. Out of everything in this town that I’ll miss, maybe my bookshelf is the only thing.

I’m sitting on the corner as my hands unawarely clench onto the unwrinkled sheets. I have to do this, I think to myself. My heart starts beating faster and faster, and I can hear the blood rushing up to my head. Grasping the last of this, I close my eyes and inhale deeply through my nose.

1… 2… 3…

I exhale out my mouth. I quickly open my eyes, get myself onto my feet from my bed, and grab the strap of my black pack. Swinging it onto my back, I walk towards my window and my shaking fingers unlatch the metal locks and slide the glass upwards. Droplets of water creep onto my window sill and onto my tan carpet. I crawl through the opening while attempting to keep my grip without slipping down the roof.

My sensitive fingers reach inside my window and silently shut it. My body is balancing on an angle several feet above the cement, and water droplets are pounding onto my grey sweater. My unbalanced ankles begin scooting its way down the elevation without entirely losing my grip onto the roof, and I finally reach the edge. Sitting down, I dangle my legs off the side and use my upper body strength to hold the rest of my body from falling off. As I position myself for my hands to let go, I land on my feet with bent knees.

Relieved, I start walking down the street for several blocks. From a distance, I have a clear visual of the three-sided box with two benches inside. After running towards the bus station, I sit down on the dry benches until bright headlights slowly pull up right in front of me. The two slim doors open inward exposing an old white man in a blue collared shirt and a lit cigarette hanging from his mouth. We make eye contact, and my lips form into a minuscule smile. My hands are held onto the straps of my pack on my chest, and I look down at my feet, watching my white converse turn into grey and switch from left to right against the steps.

“Where to, miss?” The blue-collared man asks me, and I notice his name tag – “Jennings.” I watch the cigarette stub bouncing up and down from his lips as he speaks. I turn away from him, avoiding the smell.

Without making any eye contact, I say, “Just drive,” without any detail or tone.

I hear the double doors slide behind me as I’m standing at the front of the bus. In the second row, a white-haired man in a grey t-shirt – that clearly needs to be washed – sits asleep with his head tilted back, and his mouth slightly open as if he knocked out on the bus. On the left, fourth row back, is a middle-aged African American woman staring out the window with her purse on her lap, hands laid one on top of another. She looks peaceful, and her gentle smile as she gazes out to the deep darkness of the night felt comforting. The last person already seated is in the second to last row on the right. His black hoodie is placed on his head, and I can see headphones peeking through his jacket. Nervously, I sit on the left aisle a few rows behind the African American woman, but a few rows in front of the black hoodie.

Throughout the bus, the only sound you can hear is the sound of the brakes whenever the driver slows to a stop and the sound of the engine running its gas. Maybe the occasional position shift in our seats and the little taps of raindrops, but other than that, nothing.

The wheels are turning on the bus, and as the time passes by, we pass several signs on the freeway of little towns I’ve never heard of. I find my fingers tapping on my lap. I honestly have no idea where I’m going or where I intend to land, but if it’s anywhere besides home, I know I’ll be happier.

For the past four years, I’ve been kicked to the curb by people. They claw their problems at you, disregarding the fact that you may have some of your own, and once you tell them that you’re not stable enough to handle two different kinds of issues, they leave you. The only reason why people acted like they cared about me was because I was there with my mouth shut and my ears open. Besides that, I’ve had issues with my dad nicknaming me “Whore” and individuals with higher authority telling me that I’m a “waste of oxygen” and my goals in life “to be happy” is too simplistic and naïve. I’m reminiscing into the four years that have affected me by more people imaginable.

I try to stop myself from thinking about my past life, and begin counting the rain drops hugging my window.

1…2…3…4…5…

I make my fingers play thumb war with each other until my hands stop shaking. As the numbers begin to fill my head, I doze off into an empty mind and stop thinking about my previous memories or hurts. I’m solely just sitting on this uncomfortable pleather seat counting the the wet droplets as my thumbs aggressively wrestle each other. I wonder if I look as peaceful as the African American woman.

The squeals of the brakes fall into a stop, and I look up from my seat. After three hours of driving, the white-haired man has already left the bus, leaving the African American woman, black hoodie, and I. However, as a weed-infused male walks by me from the back of the bus, I can hear the rock and roll music blaring through his headphones. Black hoodie hands the bus driver some change and walks down the steps. As my eyes leave its focus on him, I look back to his seat in curiosity. Don’t go back there, it looks a bit sketchy, my thoughts tell me. I bite my lip in anticipation, but I know there isn’t anything to be curious for.

It’s four in the morning, and considering I couldn’t necessarily walk downstairs and fix myself up a meal before I left, I figure it’s an excuse to have an early breakfast. I unzip my backpack and reach for a granola bar, but as my hand slides past my stuffed clothes, my eyes catch a red, torn up notebook under the seat across from me. It looks so delicate and some pages are peeking off from the cover as if they’ve been ripped out and placed back inside. I ignore my grumbling stomach and zip up my backpack and shift it back. I slide to the edge of my seat, and lean over to the aisle across from me. Picking up the notebook, a few pages fall out, but I cautiously push them back inside. I sit back on my seat, close to the window, and bring my knees up onto my chest.

The red covers were leather, and at the frayed right-hand corner, gold letters engrave “H.J.” The cream-colored pages inside are scribbled and smudged with black ink with handwriting that is barely readable. My thumb flips through the papers, and I notice the notebook is nearly entirely filled from cover to cover containing diagrams, sketches, dates, but mostly illegible paragraphs.

I open up to the first page.

“We were born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.” -Orson Welles

Interestingly enough, the quote seemed applicable but it sure was depressing. My fingers curiously flip to the next page. The top left of the first page in the first line includes the initials “R.D.” My face grimaces at the letters. I continue to go down the page, squinting at the black scribbles that dragged together.

“31 July 1997”

I begin wondering as to what exactly this notebook implies and what its intentions were. It was a simple notebook I found on the bus, but reading through it, it shows more than what I imagined. With my initials and my birthdate written in an obscure, frightening notebook I found on a bus, I can feel my heart beating faster than the wheels turning on the vehicle. Continuing to read down the first few pages, it includes bulleted notes of information. My fingers are beginning to shake in horror as I persistently rummage through the all-knowing pages of my life.

“4 February 2014 – First psychiatrist appointment with Dr. Wilson”

My face shrinks down, trying to understand exactly the situation going on. I’m starting to panic and my throat begins to close up, preventing air to reach to my lungs. I take my eyes off the pages for a few seconds to get myself breathing again.

“6 May 2014 – Goes out with girl friends for dinner and a movie”

I have no idea what’s going on or why I’m reading a documented notebook of my life with minuscule details that shouldn’t matter to anyone – especially a complete stranger.

“18 June 2015 – Her father drags her by her arm as she’s crying and screaming. He throws her to the ground and slaps her  because he found out she slept with her boyfriend. She calls CPS. Police around her house at 2:30am.”

My tired eyes begin filling with tears, remembering the horrid memories. Reading them from someone’s disturbing, sinister writings in a notebook is making me lose my consciousness. I can hardly breathe, and my hands cannot stop shaking. I just want to understand what is going on, and all I wanted was to leave my cruel life behind me. But as I’m on this menacing bus, I’m screaming to get out. I can’t do this, I tell myself.

My eyes glimpse back onto the notebook in curiosity.

“8 June 2016 – She’s supposed to graduate.”

Scowling at the words, what does “supposed” mean? Does this wicked man predict my future and claims that I fail high school? Or does he somehow know I wanted to leave my town preventing me from graduating?

I thumb through the sensitive pages once again, and a paper that was originally ripped out but was simply placed back into the book falls out. I pick it up from under my seat and flip it over to discover the scribblings. My eyes grow and my body freezes into paralysis. A sketch – a portrait – of my face. My precise lips, small brown eyes, wavy hair, and the little strands that annoyingly curl upwards. So detailed, and so terrifying.

My damp hands are wrinkling the pages as my tight grasp cling onto the yellow, threatening ink smudges onto my thumbs. Little tears are trailing down my cheeks as the memories flash back and my petrified, trembling body tries to comprehend this portentous, sick joke. Get me out of here, get me out of here. Get. Me. Out!

I… can’t… breathe…

As I start to feel uneasy, and my head begins to sway back and forth uncontrollably and nods off, the brakes squeal once again. The screeching alarms my ears and my head pops up. A large figure stares down at me in the aisle and he’s hovering over my seat, blocking me off from the rest of the bus. All I see is a blue collared man and a newly lit cigarette hanging from his lips. His eyebrows lean in towards the center of his face, and his eyes dagger into my insecure eyes. I try to avoid his dark countenance, so I gaze back onto his collared blue shirt. “Jennings,” I read. I realize the bus driver is towering over me and my seat. My eyes widen, and I sprawl further into my seat as I somehow attempt to step back from him. Aggravated, he snatches the notebook out of my hand and begins to yell.

“Where the hell did you get that?!” He shoves the red notebook into his back pocket and yells for me to run out of the bus. I’m dragged and tossed onto the sidewalk as tears stream down my face. The double slim doors shut, and I see the bus make a U-turn, heading back to my hometown.

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