©redits to -- Littlebear.@TDA Thank you for the matching header to this short story. ღ
I sit across from you today, do you not notice? The business rush is at its operative and people bustle around the city as they try to get to work, school, meetings, or any other equally significant aspect of their lives. We are the first two people who board that public utility jeepney – I before you, and you, just moments after me. You sit across from me with your unnaturally messy, long, black hair. I only see those types of hairs in animes and cartoons and when you lean back and intentionally allow your long bangs to slide over your face, I could hardly see your eyes.
This odd aspect of you is what piques my curiosity. Otherwise, you are just another face in the crowd. Sometimes, when you sit back for a long period of time, curiosity catches up with me, and I get that unsettling feeling that you may be watching me. There is an itch to check to affirm or negate this wondering; yet I do not. I am curious, but I restrain myself. Silence rules the vehicle.
We are all strangers brought together by circumstances into one small vehicle. I see faces, yet I do not remember them. They seem to pass by and go along with their own lives. It is a chance encounter that holds no value.
I think to myself, perhaps if I will be introduced to one of the people crowding me here by one of my friends in the near future, I would not even recognize that I had crossed paths with him or her before. And another stray thought enters, in that I may have crossed paths with one of these people a few days, a week, a month, or even a year ago – maybe even in multiple instances.
Yet I do not recognize them. They are just faces without names – just another face amongst the crowd.
We arrive at the place where I have to descend and change vehicles, and I meekly await someone to signify that he or she would like to alight. I am not very familiar yet of the routine place I have just come into, so I wait, fearful to make a mistake. In this situation, I would rather follow, than lead.
To my utmost surprise, you dismount from the vehicle. I follow curiously after. I wonder if you take your education in this school near my first stop – the one I always walk by. I do not know if you notice me, from the same jeepney, following from a distance. I slow my steps to match yours, not wanting to catch up to you. I would rather go unnoticed. Yet, I am ever curious.
You walk on, and I follow. And much to my surprise, you scramble into another jeepney – one of those I ride to school, which is at the moment my destination. Strangely pleased and a tad bit shy, I mount right after you. Again, because of some odd force of circumstances, I sit across from you. I do not meet your eyes but I wonder if you are surprised. I keep to myself, feeling even meeker and shier by the minute, yet I would rather be here than anywhere else. I look to my sides, yet never forwards. I do not want you thinking that I have my senses keenly attuned to you.
Soon, other passengers climb and disembark from the vehicle and you slide a few spaces to my left. Now, I only keep my eyes to my right. Once again, silence rules the vehicle. If I was curious of you before, then I am even more so now. Something draws me to you, though I would not call it attraction. It is a mere wanting to know more about you, not because I find you attractive, but because I would like to further understand the circumstances that led up to this curious, yet intriguing coincidence.
If I had wanted to speak to you before, then I do even more so now. Yet I do not want to break the silence of strangers whose unknown circumstances brought them together with me in this small utility of a jeepney. I do not want to draw attention to myself, though I want to reach out and communicate. Yet that fear remains that I may embarrass myself in a small, cramped, public place such as this jeepney. I push my pondering urges to the back of my mind, and tell myself to keep to myself as others keep to themselves.
The silence is dense. Though people surround me, they seem to have closed their doors and distanced themselves without using words. And if not for the occasional entrance and exit of passengers, the silence remains unbroken.
Although I never face you if I can help it, I steal furtive glances at you every now and then. I am in quiet observation and am slightly intrigued at the mystery that is you and all the people around you, and I wonder to myself if you notice and are stealing glances beneath masking fringes too. It is a strange and fascinating event. You never seem to move and as passengers come and go, you never seem to notice. You are as still as though the people passing by in your immediate front are nothing but the winds. I, myself, do not give a hint to my curiosity and will my eyes to stay outside the window whilst wondering how many other people are doing this too.
I wonder what unspoken rule prevents people from openly communicating to the person beside them. And I later conclude that our attitudes are learned from our modest, conservative nation which seems to take the warning of ‘don’t talk to strangers’ seriously. (We are not as liberal as the bigger economic nations.) And that is what you are. You and everyone else around me, of whom I know nothing of, are strangers. And I fear being straightforward and aggressive to introduce myself to a mere stranger who I may be meeting for the first and last time, and only sharing space with for a couple of minutes. It seems pointless and goes against our nature.
I wonder where your destination is and if I am to leave before you or you before me. A part of me would like you to leave first, that I may take note of your destination to satisfy my curiousity and remember the guy who shares the same strange coincidence with me, whose hair is as unnatural as my boycut-like one, which first captured my attention. Yet another part of me would like to leave first not just to show you that I am not intentionally riding the same ride as yours, but also so you might take notice of my stop, as I might yours.
Thoughts chase each other in my mind during the course of the duration of the ride. You do not give any indication of being aware of your surroundings, up until I display my voice for the first and last time before you, to request they stop – for I now arrive at my destination.
I do not know if I imagine it, but you shift ever so slightly, and make to look around. My mind assumes you may be trying to take note of the stop where the girl who has rode with you through cities for the course of an hour, and mounted the vehicle with you at the same stop and thus shares a very strange coincidence, must be stopping at. But the other part of my mind reprimands the first. It is a stupid idea. I am only over thinking things is what I manage to convince myself. To assume is a risky practice, after all.
I glance back as the jeepney drives away, carrying you with it. I regret not speaking. I regret not introducing myself despite natural afflictions and being set according to society. You are not a part of my life anymore. You are only a chance flicker of a flame; everything about you – about us – at that incident, is temporal. The moment is gone and the inevitable happens: life goes on.