As I slowly wake from my sleep, a low rumble alerts my senses. The rumbling gains momentum as it nears, consumes all other sounds, and then passes into silence. Again and again, it comes and then fades away. With each oncoming sound a flash of light brings my eyes flickering open, creating an almost instant awareness. Only then do I remember where I am. How close to home has this eastbound bus taken me?
I strain to find something familiar in the darkness outside the cloudy window. I become aware of each car that passes by, with the rumbling growl and bright lights that had awakened me. A sudden realization crosses through my sleep fogged mind; to the drivers of the passing vehicles, I do not exist. My only presence in their reality is the bus I ride, howling past them in the opposite direction. Without their knowledge of me, I’m nothing more than a nameless, faceless rider. However, to me, the same is true for the world I’m hurling past outside the bus.
I pull up the sleeve on my jacket, wipe the moisture from the window, and peer out into the darkness. As the world passes by, each house I whirl past has life going on inside, lives I know nothing about. In an attempt to bring these lives into existence for me, I start mentally writing my own stories about what is happening under their roofs. In the darkened trailer, the children are finally asleep in their beds as their parents, cuddling together on the couch, watch television. The small house on the corner has a woman crying at the table, wondering where her husband is at this hour. Her fingers run through her hair as she stares at the phone on the table in front of her, begging it to ring with some news. In my story, the phone never rings. Finally, the house with the over-grown lawn and absence of any light shining from it has had many stories created about it over the years by the local youth. Some say this dark looming house is haunted while others talk about an old man still living inside, waiting to chase off anyone who comes around. The reality of the house is different for me. The house is being used by local drug users and prostitutes as a safe haven. The stories go on and on with the passing of each town, but to me, the stories are fleeting, existing only until the next one is created. How many lives go on without anyone knowing of their existence?
Without a clear idea how much further I have left until I reach my destination, I look up and count the remaining passengers accompanying me on my journey. The bus is another representation of my life with people getting on and off not really knowing who I am; so many people passing through without taking the time to understand each other. Some of the people may stay longer than others, sharing the journey, but in the end, everyone gets off the bus. The desire to reach out to another person and connect seems to be a lost art. What would it take to authentically care about another person? Most people are happy in their ignorance of others, satisfied their world is as small and as dark as the interior of the bus we are sharing.
As these thoughts pass through my head, a feeling of loneliness washes over me. Loneliness is my constant companion. He is someone who shares my daily life, though I never hear a word of encouragement or question coming from him. He is just a passenger, always by my side along for the ride. We are seemingly all riding with our own version of Loneliness because we are unable or unwilling to open ourselves to the world around us. We are happy in our ignorance, to have Loneliness beside us through all of our journeys. While he is the one passenger that I would like to see get off my bus, I find that he remains my constant companion, always in the seat next to me.
I settle back into my seat, move my backpack up to make a pillow, then I turn to my ever present partner and silently ask him to wake me before my stop. With this final thought, I drift off to sleep listening to the growling rise and fall from the passing cars and wondering if Loneliness is riding with them too.