THE STOP • by Aaron Miller

There are three strangers with me in the sheltered bus stop. The winter storm keeps us behind the protective glass but the wicked wind relentlessly abrades it, trying to steal what little heat we have in the small space.

The bus is late. I expected it to be. Fourteenth Street is long and the plows haven’t gotten to it yet. That’s okay though, I’m in no hurry. There’s been no talk between the four of us. The unkempt man in the beige overcoat keeps coughing sporadically and I’m glad I’m at the opposite side of the shelter from him. He’s wearing a plain black toque and sunglasses even though it’s been dark for three hours now. I bring my attention back to the whipping white outside of the glass partition. The snow is hypnotic. The way it is able to flutter violently. I look to my left, away from my silent company but there are no headlights cutting through the tapestry of the storm and I look wearily down at my grey salt stained boots.

The man in the beige overcoat coughs again but this time he covers his mouth with his sleeve. Perhaps he saw me looking at him before. It’s hard not to analyze people when there’s no conversation. The wind supplies the voice; it sounds eerie against the shelter.

The man to my right is the only person who is standing. He’s well-kept and keeps glancing at his watch. As the time goes by he looks at his wrist more and more often. I imagine if the bus doesn’t arrive in ten minutes he’ll only stare at the numbered face and watch the hands run track. Of course, checking the time comes hand in hand with looking in my direction to see if the bus is coming. We made eye contact a few minutes ago and now he only subtly glances down the road.

I can’t quite figure out why the girl beside the watch checker is here. She only has a thin spring jacket on. Every time the man in the beige overcoat coughs she shifts uncomfortably.

I look down the empty road again and I rest my forehead on the cold glass. That’s when I see a shape in the distance. It isn’t the bus. It isn’t even a car, but as the shape gets more visible through the white it’s evident that it is a person. They’re walking down the middle of the road. Trudging through the snow with one arm up to block the wind. I watch curiously and remove my head from the glass. The lone traveler makes a sudden turn toward the shelter. I notice that my silent company is also watching and before the man beside me can check his watch again there are now five people inside.

It’s a girl. Perhaps in her early twenties, wearing a red coat that’s layered in snow. A baggy yellow toque hides her hair but brown strands are trying to fight their way through the brim. She’s looking at everyone in the stop until she finally makes eye contact with me and then smiles. I look away back down at my shoes. Even for the split second that our eyes met I knew that this girl was different from all of the other people in the bus stop, including myself. Her eyes gleamed with the curiosity you’d find in a child yet they had the look of a vast intellect to them. That’s when her voice broke through the cold air.

“How is everyone tonight?”

I looked up again and she was looking around the shelter. The man in the beige overcoat was looking out his window and the man beside me had come to the stage of only staring at his watch. Before I could even think about if I should talk to this stranger from the storm the girl in the spring jacket answered.

“Not too great,” she said quietly, looking at the salted ground. Red coat smiled and leaned against the glass beside the open doorway. “Well,” she started, “it can’t be because of this lovely weather, now, can it?”

I examined her more intensely now. There was no sarcasm to her voice. There was no bitterness. She truly was happy about the storm.

“I’m running away forever,” the jacket girl said and crossed her arms. The man in the beige overcoat turned his head and cleared his throat, “I tried running away once. It doesn’t work. You need to face your problems.”

Red coat laughed and adjusted her hat. It was the kind of laugh that warms you.

 “Beautifully spoken sir. Here take some of these. Don’t worry, they’re clean,” Red coat handed the man in the beige overcoat a bunch of tissues. The three carried on and eventually convinced the jacket girl to go back to her home and apologize to her parents. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. She talked to the watch checker next. I forget the exchange but after they had finished he never once looked at his watch and only watched the snow. There was something so real about her. She was the most genuinely kind person I had ever met.

“Everyone has a story,” she said smiling at me. The words baffled me, and I tried to come up with a response but she spoke again, “What’s yours?”

I don’t remember my response, but it was along the lines of, “I’m going over to my boyfriend’s house.”

She looked past me down the road and I turned to look. The headlights of the bus broke through the snow. “Well,” Red coat began, “I hope you have an amazing time. It was a pleasure speaking to all of you. Have a good night.”

At that, she left and started out into the storm again. I instantly regretted not asking her name. It didn’t matter that the bus was approaching. The shelter felt warmer and everyone knew that.

Aaron Miller is a graduate from Wilfrid Laurier University with a bachelors in English and Film. He is currently working in the Canadian film industry but strives to be a known writer.

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