May 9, 2016

Three Men

Street lamps were the only source of light in the darkness. No cars ran down the empty street, and each house was dark. The world was asleep except for the three men sitting at the bus stop.
They sat together shoulder by shoulder, staring into the darkness and not at each other. Each of them had a million things going through their minds, a million memories, a million wishes.
The first one slouched at the end, pressing his forehead against the glass sides of the depot. He looked at his reflection, wishing more than anything he was someone else.
He was lost. He had no idea what to do. He had gotten caught up in something bigger than he was, only because he thought he could handle things, that he could catch the sand sliding through his fingers.
He’d gotten in trouble - lots of it. He didn’t think, he did idiotic things only because people told him too. He let people break him, and he was paying the consequences.
He told his parents he was dropping out of high school. He hoped, he prayed they’d understand, that they’d get that he was trapped. Instead they had told him to leave, to go and not come back unless he decided to clean up his act. Maybe they thought that would change his mind. Maybe they thought he would turn around and be what they wanted.
But he was done with people bending him, shaping him to be something he was not.
He ignored his father’s angry face and his mother’s pleading eyes, and he packed his bags.
The man next to him was like a wilted flower, bent over, eyes closed. He was so tired, so stressed, spent. He’d put work ahead of everything else, even in front of himself. He’d ignored himself and his wife, and now he was sick. The doctor had sat with him and told him the test results, and all he could do was freeze.
He was leaving now. His job was over. He was taking back control of his life, he wasn’t going to let work eat him away like his cancer. He was going to take his wife somewhere beautiful, and he was going to tell her everything. He wasn’t going to come back.
The third passenger sat at the end of the bench, his heart racing with an unbearable excitement. The hour was late but he was wide awake. His wrinkled hands grasped the arm of the bench. He felt like jumping up and dancing, but he was too old for that. But he could cry, and that’s what he did. Fat tears ran invisibly down his face, blending into his gray hair.
The phone call from his son-and-law had come not an hour before, saying he needed to come to the hospital as quickly as he could. He was going to see his granddaughter for the first time.
Three men sat at the bus stop. Three men unsure of the future that lay ahead of them. Finally a bus drove up and the doors screeched open, breaking the silence. The man sat at different spots on the bus, the first one lugging a suitcase behind him.
The bus drove quietly for a few minutes before it came to the first stop. The second man walked off, wincing when his leg hit the side of the seats. His white shirt stuck out over his pants, and his tie was undone. He tipped the driver and stepped out.
The bus drove on. Another stop came, and the first man walked off and stood by the door, scanning the street. He dragged his suitcase and walked away into darkness.
At last it was the last man’s turn to get off the bus. The bus stopped at the hospital bus station, and the old man limped to the front of the bus and walked out the door where a young man was there to greet him. He rushed inside the hospital and found the room, just in time to hear the first cries of his new granddaughter.
The bus drove off, and the night was quiet again.
Three men started a new life, each stepped into something unknown. Each was unsure of what was going to happen. Each started the day as something he was, and each ended the day a completely different someone.
None of the men took the time to look at the other’s face. Perhaps if he had, he would have been shocked at the familiarity. Perhaps he would have stopped... stared... remembered.
Perhaps he wouldn’t have.
None realized that person sitting next to him was himself.