And he wasn’t going to know anyone at this new school, Carver High, phone or no phone.
He walked slowly to the bus stop that first morning.
Because, according to his mother, high school was old enough to ride the city
bus alone. But, really, it was because the school was close enough for the bus
to be convenient whereas the Stones would have required a three hour trip on
the bus in the afternoon and wasn’t even available in the mornings because the
bus wasn’t running at 4:00am.
He’d never been on a bus before except one time in first
grade on a field trip, but that had been a school bus full of people he knew.
This was… different. He hung around the outskirts of the crowd of students
waiting for the bus when he got to the bus stop. There were so many of them,
and he didn’t know how to fit in, so he just orbited the mass of teenagers as
if he were an asteroid trying to decide whether to become a moon or go flying
back out into space. He was leaning toward flying back off into space.
Most of them were showing each other videos on their phones,
though there were a couple who were making first-day-of-school videos or
something. Kids taking selfies together after not seeing each other all summer.
He felt cold and alone, outside of all the camaraderie he was witnessing.
Then the bus pulled up, and everyone was filing into the bus,
sliding their bus cards through the swiper. All he had was a handful of change
and, when he looked, it wasn’t even enough. Evidently, his mother gave him money
based on how much she remembered the bus being not because she’d looked up the
cost. If he pooled the change he had for both trips, he could get to school,
but he wouldn’t have enough money to get home.
While he was staring at the quarters in the palm of his
hand, the door to the bus closed, it hissed that noise that only buses make,
and drove away, leaving him and a few other kids behind. He looked up in
bewilderment, still unsure of what to do about any of this.
A voice said close to his ear, “It was full.”