566 – a short story
She sees the numbers from a distance. Squinting eyes widen with hope like the father spotting his prodigal son. She doubts herself for a moment and quickly digs into the heavy grey purse on her lap, pushing past the rattle of medications and an unnecessary pile of tissues. She pulls out a faded bus timetable and the scratched plastic reading glasses that she had bought at her local chemist back in 2011. Only $6. Why waste money at a fancy Optometrist when you can buy everything you need at the chemist for $6? She nodded to herself in agreement as she put them on and held up the paper close to her nose to try to catch the tiny writing between the scratches on the lenses.
Bus 566 – Lalor. She smiled. That’s the one.
She looked back up to the road as the 566 approached, rolling towards her like a lumbering dog running to its master. She started to wave at the bus as if it would smile and raise one of its wheels to wave back. Groan. Her joy was interrupted by the ache of a stubborn hip. One hour was a long time to wait and the steel frame of the bus stop bench showed no mercy. But it was either one hour here or another hour at home. Her empty house had been a cold museum for the last few months. The walls lined with framed memories of family gatherings teasing her in her isolation. With her Type 2 Diabetes and history of lung cancer she was deemed high risk. Immuno-something-or-other her doctor said. So the anticipation of physical touch now that the restrictions had finally been lifted were worth every ache and pain.
Her hands, worn and crumpled as the old paper timetable she clutched, now tightened their grip as the 566 reached her stop with a hiss. The sound reminded her of the steam trains of her childhood growing up in Ireland. She would wait at the station with her mother for her father to arrive back from his long business trips in the city. When she spotted him step on to the platform she would squeal with delight and run into his open arms. His embrace was warm and safe and full of love. She longed again for that embrace. She could no longer run, but now she lifted her shaky frame off her seat with the kind assistance of her trusty walker. The doors of the 566 opened with a mechanical clunk and one person hopped off with a backpack and a beaming smile.
This was my contribution to a creative challenge set by a Writer’s Group I am part of. We had to write around three paragraphs based on the prompt “A woman at a bus stop”. Our challenge was to write it using interesting and creative words or phrases.
It was wonderful to write and then go back over a sentence and think “How else could I describe this?”
It was also wonderful to try to express some of the longing and loss that many feel during this pandemic season, especially the elderly and the isolated.
We are all longing to be able to embrace our loved ones again.