Just like the front cover of the Sex Pistols single Pretty Vacant, buses to ‘Boredom’ and ‘Nowhere’ tried their best to dissuade me from my goal. Still, the thought of being homeless for another night was even more dreading. It was funny how leaving things to the last minute was a recurring theme in my life. If only I would’ve started sooner I might’ve…. Even more sinister was how society reacted co-dependently each time to each crisis. Was there another way?
Clamping down on my nerves, I ran to the bus stop to catch the number 16 Hastings to Renfrew bus. With nerves in check, I took my seat at the back. From this vantage point, I could lord over my kingdom and foresee any potential signs of trouble. From the looks of things it was going to be a long, long ride….
Trying not to think about anything lasted about ten seconds. Without a newspaper, Buzzer or book to occupy me my energy began to pulsate. Terrified of making a scene, I let it seep out bit by bit, content to simply gaze out the window onto the streets, stores and crowds along the way. Heads turned and looked in my direction as if summoned to some unknown call. On the inside, passengers chattered and laughed away freely and innocently. Without boundaries and/or a life of my own, I enviously responded to the conversations of others with snickers and ‘smart’ remarks. Heads turned; I looked away at the dirt and stains on the windows. Overwhelming loneliness called out to me. If I weren’t careful I’d end up making friends with cracks in asylum walls. Joyful laughter became ridicule aimed at me. I knew they had better things to do than talk about me, but it was as if anything anyone said substantiated my existence. Thoughts clamored over one another like an unruly mob vying to be right. Another part cared less.
Across the way, lone passengers sat quietly and peacefully. What was their secret? My heart moved and sank like a lead weight into the pit of my stomach. For a brief moment I longed to be a part of whatever circus act they had, but all I had to offer was a freak show. Remorse stabbed me for being high in public, but it was the only way I knew how to cope. Besides, everyone I knew used them in one form or another whether they admitted it or not. And I could see why. Chained to the grindstone of society was far better than actually knowing what was going on or admitting true feelings. But drugs weren’t all that bad. They created a space for me to do most of my deep thinking, processing and integration – when alone. In public, however, I felt like I was betraying everyone, especially God, by not living up to my potential. But I was on a journey to change all that!
At Main and Hastings, a couple of rough necks boarded highlighting my worst fears. Avoiding eye contact and what it might entail, I looked at the roof – anything but them. They looked too, then quizzically back at me before sitting down and laughing. For me, not being able to stand my ground felt like incoming thunder after lightning. Afraid my pent up aggressions, hurts and negative emotions would thunder up a freakish storm, I sat up straight, still and quiet like a good little boy. I knew better than to play outside my sandbox.
In my claustrophobic state, the air tasted warm, stale and stifling. My body felt like a piece of rotting fruit on a tree. My mind latched on to an older oriental man a few seats away. ‘What now?’ I thought, ‘What could he possibly want with me? How many sins have I committed against the Chinese? What the hell does that mean?’ I stepped back further within myself – if that was at all possible. Just because I used to be racist, judgmental and prejudicial didn’t mean I still was, did it? How would I know? God would know, wouldn’t He? Yes, he would. Oh, thank God for God!’ I thought wholeheartedly, nearly jumping out of my seat in joy at the fact that, in the end, it wasn’t up to me. God would know.
‘He wants to kill me. Why, what did I ever do to him? Nothing directly, but I might’ve done something to him in a past life or to someone he knows – somewhere at some time in some past life. Well, who hasn’t? I mean we’re all inter-related right. So the chances of me doing something either to him or someone he knows is statistically possible. No excuses. It’s about me, not them. God knows. He’ll testify against me. Maybe the news hasn’t reached him yet? It’s only a matter of time. I know, but… See if he knows.’ I looked; he looked. I never felt so glad for such an unemotional cold blank stare in my entire life. I rang the bell for my stop and clumsily exited the bus.
© Michael J. Varma, The Gong Show, 2011 –
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