There’s always been this one moment that sticks out very clearly in my mind: it’s 2013 or 2014, and there are three uniformed girls standing under an overcast sky, awaiting their bus home.
I can’t remember much of the context but I know it was the last day of school before a holiday. It might have been Christmas. But I knew we wouldn’t be seeing each other again for a long time. My last class that day was Home Economics and the teacher had let us make whatever we wanted. I either baked a chocolate cake or made a stir fry; whatever it was, I sealed it up in a foil tray that I held close to me, to warm me in the Irish weather.
It was at a bus stop, of all places, where this moment happened. The clarity of it is startling – like a loud voice over white noise. We were three young black girls, just waiting. We joked, fell quiet, watched the cars speed off into the distance and got back to joking. A passer-by might ignore us completely, unaware of how we got there, of the history behind us. We were so different from each other – M was religious, a dab hand at maths & science and very goal-oriented. V played basketball and was one of the funniest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of being friends with. And I was a terrible, angsty teen writer. All of us had had experiences so unlike each other that we might as well have been total strangers. We had navigated our entire lives – labyrinthine, sprawling, emotional – up until then, to find ourselves in one spot, to meet at a point on a giant Cartesian plane.
On the bus all three of us made for the empty top deck. We sat in separate seats, window ones. I remember gazing out through the glass. I felt pensive. I guess M and V felt like that as well, because when I glanced back their eyes were fixed on the outside, too. I wondered where their minds were, what thoughts rumbled through them like freight trains. For me, it was this: our time in secondary was nearing its end, petering out. We balanced precariously on the edge of adulthood: college, relationships, jobs, bigger responsibilities. The end of a five-year era. It made sense that I might never see these people again, but the fact disturbed me also.
The bus pulled into our town. M got off first and she nodded goodbye to myself and V. I still had the foil tray in my hands, tapped on it mindlessly, its contents shifting under my touch. It made me think of Home Ec. class, its wide windows that facilitated plenty of light, the P.E. hall with its giant murals of athletes, the powdery scent of the girls’ bathroom, the untuned piano in the library, the Religion room plush with crimson carpet, that sunshiney upstairs stretch of corridor from which you could see the school’s roof and the tree-lined horizon beyond.
I said bye to V, disembarked from the bus and watched it disappear round the bend.
What is it that makes the most mundane things so captivating? A window’s view, a yellow pole of a stop. The small details of daily life manifest as some kind of philosophy; you see three girls, I see Rumi, Gautama and Confucius flagging down the 40D.
I suppose it’s the recent changes in my life that have made me sentimental. I want to be fifteen again. But for now, I’ll have to keep time travel within the confines of my head. Sometimes I wonder what that past version of me would make of me now. Probably laugh, dismiss my pining. Or say, “you were always one for reminiscing, and it’s done you absolutely no good.” Fair enough, I’d say, continuing to thumb through my graduation book.
I hope V and M and all the friends with whom I shared my time are doing well now. We are scattered across the country, and maybe even the continent, but we are connected by a golden thread. There are parts of our lives that are inextricably tied together, and I am glad of it, to have been in such happy bonds.