She tied her mud stained shoelaces and headed out the door after giving salaam to her mum. It was quarter to twelve and she had to be at work for half past, bearing in mind it’s an hour journey. Obviously, she was going to be late. But today she didn’t care. She had been early on every single occasion ever since she started working there, so what’s one day of tardiness in a lifetime of perfection, eh? That doesn’t mean she took extra time in getting there, it just meant she didn’t hyperventilate trying to get her out of shape body to run to inevitably still be late.
It was one of those days in late April, where spring was meant to be at its peak, the sun shining, people getting their sunglasses out, sun cream on, less clothes more skin, all of that kind of stuff, but it couldn’t have looked the furthest away from it. The clouds were in a conflict, the blue hues trying to override the grey; a battle that would seem to last forever in a country like Britain. The air was humid, but the wind was fierce, still taking everyone as its victim, refusing to surrender to complaints and pleas of wishful thinkers.
Her hands began to look pale; a coffee, she thought. She needed her morning coffee. After her first bus ride and having thanked the driver for carrying out his duty, she trotted along to her favourite coffee shop. There she ordered her grande cappuccino and literally threw in her dozen or so sugars because she has a sweet tooth, clearly. Sweet teeth would be appropriate in this case. It was quarter past twelve at this point, her stomach growled and reminded her she needed to feed it lunch. On the way to her second bus stop was a Subway, where she stopped and picked up her sandwich from. It was nearly half past twelve by the time the bus arrived, and boy time was going by fast.
It began when she sat down. Gradually, as the bus halted to offload and take on more passengers at each stop, the doubled decker bus started to fill up pretty easily. Hoodlums and hooligans were custom to sitting upstairs, so she found herself a seat towards the back end of the bottom floor next to a window. She liked to people watch, and dazing on a public form of transport was the perfect medium to fulfil her hobby. Soon, she placed her bags onto her lap, being considerate for all the passengers coming onto the bus and not going upstairs. After all, she was one of them. It was then when he came and sat next to her.
She smiled under her veil, her eyes squinted as they showed compassion for him for he reminded her of someone close to her heart. His smile as he climbed aboard that revealed a not so pristine set of teeth, but still made him cute. His golden, beige salwar kameez, gathered underneath his green parka coat, and the white, intricately patterned topi sat on what was a few white hairs. On his face, semi white and semi black straggles of hair gathered ever so neatly under his chin. His hands, with skin so thin his every vein could be seen carrying blood to his beating heart. Dismissively, she turned away from him, hoping her peripheral vision wouldn’t betray her tedious heart and catch another glimpse, but how could she not?
A short while had passed, another few stops had come and gone when suddenly the bus stopped. A man walked on with a neon orange vest top and demanded everyone show their tickets. Funnily enough how the buses to an Asian area were always getting checked. She took out the tiny piece of paper that was folded several times, placed neatly in the back of her purse and showed the officer she wasn’t a fraud trying to get a free bus ride. And so did he; his fragile yet sturdy hands held out his red bus pass and she failed. Her eyes quickly glanced and she saw his I.D. photo. Memories came flushing back as her nose began to sniffle. She remembered how she would hold his hands as she carefully glided oil over his arms, massaging his aching muscles. How he would smile and greet people in the very same, gracious manner as this man. How he would sit so close to her on his single bed downstairs through the dark hours of the night because he needed her by his side, and she refused to leave. How when he was taken into hospital and there had been an infection, yet he still wanted her to come visit. To tell him, inshallah we will meet again tomorrow before laying a single kiss on his wrinkled forehead. How she wished she wasn’t there on that bus. He didn’t look much like him, but it was the only man she had ever sat so close to that took her back to square one.
She strained to stop the tears stream down her face, soaking her veil but it was to no avail. The lodge that she had struggled so hard to remove was back in the middle of her throat, catching her heart in between.