Note: this is a memoir piece based upon a crime that happened near my home today. Trigger warnings for violence. Reader discretion advised. For anyone struggling with what’s happened today, please remember that Lifeline’s crisis number is 13 11 14.
Warnings: trigger- violence, swearing, probably not overly coherent, lack of editing
It never goes smooth, you know? Today had a plan. Get up, get some chores done, then head out. It’s a short walk to the main bus stop, two minutes at most, and tada. Buses galore.
And then, the bullshit arrives. It always does, in far too many ways. And the walk down the road became the walk across the road to the longer route. The world gets busy, stays busy, until Mum’s name flashes on the screen of my phone, and a voice aching with relief and fear and something I can’t even name is panicking down the phone at me.
Tell me you’re okay. A sigh like a prayer when I say yes.
Have you heard from your sister? No. And not for twenty minutes after that, until my hands were shaking and my heart hurt in a way that left me dazed and gasping at the sound of her voice. Tell me you’re okay. I never realised how much I love the sound of her voice.
Some fucker murdered a bus driver today, two minutes away from my home. Some limp-dicked, how-can-you-tell-with-a-dick-so-small bastard burned a man alive, trapped people in the bus until a taxi driver kicked the back door in and got the women and the children and the men to safety. No one should be so scared. No one deserves this.
They’re showing the driver’s picture on the news, now. He’s new to the route, but I know him. I didn’t want it to be someone I knew. Pretty fucking sure no one wanted it to be someone they knew. He was quick with a smile, a genuinely nice guy, the sort of driver that you actually fucking enjoy dealing with. He’d wish you a good day and genuinely seem to mean it, would wait until you’d sat down before the bus took off. He was nice, is what I’m saying. This morning, he left home alive. He had goals, dreams, fears. He had fucking plans for his weekend. Tonight, he’s never coming home.
How the fuck is that fair?
He was younger than me. That’s not how this shit is meant to work. This isn’t meant to happen. This shit is never meant to happen. Who the fuck does this?
I get through part of the day before the shakes kick in. Before my brain makes the connection that oh, shit, I should have been there. The plan was to be there.
Would I have walked onto the bus, taken my usual seat near the driver? Would I be in hospital now if some part of me hadn’t been too overwhelmed by life to bother? How would Mum have coped if I hadn’t answered the phone, or worse, if someone else had?
I wanna get a tattoo, wanna fuck or scream or do something because I was meant to be there. I want a fucking hug. Or a drink. What’s the proper thing to do? What is the proper, acceptable behaviour when you’ve spent an afternoon wondering about things you wish you could get out of your head?
I sit near the front of buses, because I tend to catch the ones that head to ‘bad’ areas, and you learn quick what seats to avoid if you don’t want drunks draped all over you. There was a drunk on the bus this morning, a guy who went and screamed abuse at drivers when he got off at my stop. He had a can in hand, sloshing in the elevator, staring me down to the sound of shitty elevator music. He was scary. Clearly not the scariest fucker on the system today.
The back of the bus isn’t the best place to be sometimes.
This isn’t one of those bad areas, though. This isn’t meant to happen. Not here. Not to people who have a visible place in my world.
I’m being selfish, and I know it. I think about me, because if I think about him I’ll be sick. If I think about him, I’ll think about how he died, and my imagination is too vivid to let myself do that. I don’t want to think about someone whose smile I know dying like that. I don’t want to think about how terrifying it would be to be screaming for help, choking on smoke and trying to protect your toddler from the worst of it. I don’t want to question those things that don’t need to be questioned right now. I just want to feel warm again.
There’s this scene in Doctor Who, right? The big bad has made its way onto the tour vehicle, has possessed the body of the hostess. She throws herself out of the vehicle, sacrifices herself so that the others will survive. The survivors are shell-shocked, they’re sitting in silence, waiting to be rescued, the Doctor on the floor, knees almost to his chest as he looks around the others.
“What was her name?” No one asked her. This woman had greeted them, had been courteous and kind, and had protected them in their hour of darkness, and not a single person had bothered asking her name.
How many times did I say hi, did I ask about his day or wish him a good one? How many smiles did we share? And not once did I ask his name.
I wished my drivers well today, told them to be safe. Made eye contact for once, fought the urge to hug each and every one of them and ask them what kind of brave keeps working after this shit goes down.
Still never asked him his name, though. Still far too late to remedy that.