On this particular morning she’s chosen to wear a royal blue angora sweater, blue plastic triangle earrings, black mini skirt, black tights and her black suede stiletto boots. Though the seven day-ahead hours promise little but the her heart is not in it drudgery of trying to increase her typing speed and learning a dozen or so new shorthand symbols, she is excited to hear what her friends think of her outfit, and she is eager to see what they are wearing as well.
And on this particular morning, she is the first rider on the bus that takes her to the voc tech. She is already picturing lunch time. How the guys in metal shop will be hanging out in the hall waiting for the clutch of friends to whom she belongs to blush and giggle past, heading to usual tables and three and a half hour longed for cigarettes.
She becomes aware that the bus has left the paved road and is now jolting down a dirt lane. The driver applies the brakes, turns in his seat, and smiles at her. Her hands are suddenly ice cold, gasoline fumes from the idling bus already beginning to turn her stomach.
You’re pretty cute. You know that?
She stammers out a thank you, desperately wishing that she was seated in front of her typewriter instead of where she is now.
Of course you know that. His tone voices irritation. And you know what else? I am not moving this damn bus until you are nice to me.
She starts talking. Not even knowing what she is saying. Trying to change the subject. Trying to buy time. Begging for him to please take her to school.
He remembers to look at his watch, realizing he is soon going to be terribly behind schedule, turns to face the steering wheel, and circles the bus back around to the paved road.
Her whole body is trembling but she does not cry.
After that, she catches a different bus. One that takes her half an hour out of her way. She still does not relish the typing and the shorthand but neither does she relish what used to be the fun of showing off her outfits to her friends. She starts to wear the same baggy green sweatshirt almost every day. Smokes more, and counts the days until June.
But on this particular morning, she tells no one. Nor does she ever. Because of course she blames herself.
This is based on something that actually happened to me when I was 22. I’ve thought about it a lot lately because my own daughter is 18 and learning to navigate the world on her own. And that, I confess, scares me at times.