E really wants to open the window, yet there's no command from a higher authority to do so.
She is a shy girl from a small town with a mother who brought her up under the strictest regime.
E had to be home before 9. E had to obey her mother's commands. E had to please her mother until the end.
E's mother died yesterday. She is taking the bus to the swimming pool like she does every other day.
E hates swimming without even knowing about it. Her mother forced her to go for the sake of her form and for her mental health the depths of which E never got to explore.
One could think that after being liberated from such a mother's tyranny, E would throw the weights down and go around doing whatever she wants to do.
The reality is that she doesn't know what else to do at 5 pm except go swimming. The reality is, E has grown to believe that the weights have become an indivisible part of her body.
D really wants to open the window, yet his dignity won't allow him to ask anyone for help.
He lost one full arm and all the fingers of the other hand when a bomb exploded during the war. He was fighting against the Vietnam troops, leading the whole platoon.
D was rubbing his shoes one to the other at the thought of his powerlessness. D would prefer being struck by a bullet straight in the head than having to live with this disturbing feeling.
D's inability to perform a task as simple as opening a window is choking him on a biological level. His breathing is intensified, the air is so insufficient, D is sure to go crazy at any moment.
D's life during the war was horrid. But worse was the misery that came after. D misses the days when he was holding the heavy guns and lifting the artillery. He misses the texture of the shotguns that he used to master like they were his own extensions. The hard metal that he caressed with fingers. He misses the smell of the gunpowder after the bullets are shot. Or the deafening ringing that follows. Even having to carry troops in his arms seems better than the pitiful look D tries not to notice every time someone opens a supermarket door for him.
One could think being a commander in the past would help D order someone to immediately open the window. Yet it seems his perception of his own authority was cut together with the parts of his body.
The truth is, D has been leading a miserable life after the war, and even suicide has many times crossed his mind. D would kill himself, if he didn't think the neighbours would pity even his death.
D feels no different than a piece of trash overfilling the streets of his city after every Friday night.
L and M really want to open the window, yet any movement feels like a thousand marathons to them.
Young people who met not too long ago and were immediately struck by the arrows of cupid.
L and M were magnetically drawn to each other. That night their energies, their looks, their auras made them think they were two pieces of puzzle separated at the points of their births.
L and M were at a house party where every one of their friends kept pushing the two toward each other. It was impossible not to notice the attraction. They were both so drunk and so happy.
L and M made out, slept together, and are beginning to realise what a terrible idea it was to meet up at 5 pm next week, all sober.
One could think those two astronomically united entities would have worlds to discuss. Stories from their pasts, hopes for their futures, global issues, this and that...
The truth is, the stars have turned faces from them today with the same unaffected apathy they put L and M together a week ago. Any twinkling finger, snapping bone, growling stomach, is feeling up their embarrassment jar more and more.
And thus the bus is rolling. Windows closed, the driver too thick to care.
All the other cars and buses that pass by their sides have either air conditioning turned on or all their windows open. There are ladies outside fanning themselves, children eating ice cream, topless men roaming the streets.
The bus stops.
N climbs up.
"Would anyone mind if I opened the window."
Casual reactions from everyone. Overall, all remain silent.
Without getting a response, N shrugs and pushes the window open. She puts her head on the sill and gazes out. She feels the air strike her face at 60 km/h with which the bus is travelling. N uses this velocity to her advantage.
N is that kind of a person. She can take any situation and mould it so that she derives joy from it. Be it a walk in the park, a ride in a bus, or sitting at home and reading a book.
Many people say they want to be happy. N doesn’t say this, N just is happy.
She’s not the richest, nor the fairest, nor has she had the most tragic past which allows her to appreciate the fleeting joys of today.
It's just that one day N simply got sick of all the pitiful nagging. She realised there’s no point in waiting for joy, in lusting for or in hating the past, in being scared to look into the future or in being so immersed in it as to miss the beauty of the present.
Simply put, one fine day, N just chose the joyful life.
The bus stops again.
L gets up.
"It was great seeing you, we should do this again sometime."
"Yeah, totally. Um... Should I walk you home?"
"No... thanks. It's right in front of the stop. Bye, have a nice one!"
She runs out of the bus.
M sits back. He lets out a deep breath that everyone, including the driver, can hear. It seems like he forgot to breathe for the last half an hour.
M opens the window by his side. Now there are two windows open in the bus. N looks at him and smiles in an understanding way.
Next stop. No one climbs down, no one climbs up.
Next stop. No one climbs down, no one climbs up.
Next stop. E wakes up. She realises she missed her exit four stops ago. She could sit the opposite bus and go back but it would already be past dinnertime once she'd get back home from swimming.
E was even seeing a dream which was a puzzle put together from yesterday's funeral. She doesn't recall everything that happened there, but she remembers the end.
Her mother stood over the coffin, she opened the lid, and E saw her own face resting inside.
E has lost the track of where she is, when she is, or even where she's headed. She isn't sure if the squeak of the wheels of the bus is real or is only happening in her mind.
"Excuse me, sir, what is the time?"
D is proudly wearing a watch on the arm which still has his wrist intact. It's a watch that's worn like a bracelet yet has a design of an actual watch with an actual clasp in the end. D makes sure to put it on whenever leaving his house and sometimes even inside the house.
"5:47", he says, proudly showing off the gold coloured wristwatch.
E is struck with horror at the realisation that she just missed her stop, spoke to a stranger, and fell asleep in a public bus. All in the last half an hour or so.
E is struck again, even more powerfully, after the next realisation - no one will be there to punish her when she gets home.
E is experiencing an absurd moment of chaos, which is not a bad start to an independent life.
"Will someone open the overhead window for god's sakes?" D asks after checking time again that didn't change much from half a minute ago.
E was already up on her feet when he made the request.
N smiles again, watching the scene happen. She smiles every time a window opens. N must be either a window maniac or thinking of every newly opened window in the bus as her personal achievement. We are not sure about N's intentions while smiling. That mysterious face very often speaks with poetic games: double entendres, contrasting feelings, metaphoric ideations…
The bus keeps rolling on, with no detours from its designated path.
Nothing has changed on the grand scale, be the windows open or be they closed, either way, the thick driver would ride from the same point A to the same point B.
The only difference can be sensed in the Louisiana air, which has become a little more bearable inside this bus full of strangers.
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I liked the characterisation in this story; they were well thought out. Also, it's quite hard to write different words for weather instead of actually saying the words. You did a good job.