The ride to the bus was quick but lonesome despite the NPR I was listening to. Stories of people all across the world were mentioned. How many different people there are in this world. Looking out the front windshield, I couldn’t help thinking of the lives of the people around me, all on their own way, following their own path, living their own separate lives. Early in the morning as it was, the gentle golden glow was only slowly beginning to crest over the mountains in opposition to the gray dawn and the roads were very lightly trafficked by both vehicles and pedestrians. For the cars that were out on the road, I couldn’t help but create narratives for each of the assumed occupants.
For the dirty, blue Toyota truck, rusting along all edges, I imagined a workman, going off to some construction site. He was mid-forties in age and somewhere well below mid-forties in income. But he was a good man, making an honest living for the family he loved so dearly.
For the spotless white Mercedes, I visualized a narrative of a woman in her late thirties. With striking red hair, perfected nails, a tight pencil skirt, a royal blue blouse, a black blazer, and a pair of empowered, peach-colored pumps, she cut quite a figure. I imagined her to be intelligent, hard-working, almost detrimentally so, and above all, in control of all aspects of her life. But with this pristine façade, I associated a much deeper story, one of loss, regret, and loneliness. I imagined that when she was young, she had envisioned herself wealthy, powerful, and happily-committed by age thirty-five. Most of her vision had come to fruition, but one crucial piece was still missing. And so, she spent many nights alone, her apartment feeling open and cavernous, the walls seeming to mock her lack of romantic intimacy. But she was alive.
I arrived at the bus, late as usual, gliding in a blur past the driver and the hordes of watching eyes. I wondered what lay behind those eyes— contempt, judgment, emptiness, or perhaps even depth of thought. The back of the bus, the last frontier in terms of seats, and the prime location for observation is where I landed. As they sat in the darkness within the bus, so did I— observing and contemplating their lives.
I created scenarios for each of their lives too. I thought about the sorrowful-faced man. I pitied him; he seemed compassionate. But underlying his sunken countenance was a morose back- story, one of heartbreak and loss. I thought of him as average though; we all had loss. I just wondered why he seemed to take his loss so deeply, hanging on to his depression for so long.
The boy who sat next to me seemed pleasant enough with his youthful, humorous attire and attractive face, but his affliction was cigarettes. From his breath and that nervous, energetic twitchiness, it was clear to me that he was addicted, tragically and absolutely. I wondered what tormented him so that he was driven to the so-called cancer sticks. Perhaps a father that was nonexistent or a single mother who was working two jobs was the source of the anxiety that plagued him so. Still, deep within his brown eyes was a boyish hope in tandem with that childlike fear that is rooted in abandonment.
I cogitated on the young skiers in the seats just ahead of me. They poked fun at each other and chatted loudly and immaturely. I wondered exactly why they felt it necessary to converse in such a way. Had they just left home and never grown up. They seemed middle-aged in the physical sense, but in terms of psychological development, they seemed naïve, uneducated, even somewhat stunted.
My day continued on with these scenes in my head and soon, the bus ride was over. Walking along the street mall, a very different group of people surrounded me. Looking haughty and disconnected in their rich fur coats, they seemed altogether disinterested with the pedestrian world around them. A woman of considerable stature as well as apparently considerable wealth pranced past me, walking elegantly, almost levitating in her pretension. She was chattering into her phone, seemingly unaware of the entire world around her own particular realm, no doubt unaware of me as well. I wondered if she felt ashamed of her narcissism, but I already knew in my mind that she had neither interest in the outside world nor any anxiety for her lack of outward compassion.
Over the course of the day, my sense that everyone was separate and unique evolved and I became aware that my life and other’s lives are more similar than different. I began to feel that my motivations and drives were the same as everyone else’s. While I knew that my life was not without pain, suffering, and heartbreak, I realized that other’s lives were not either. Joy and love were most important in life, I soon recognized. My life is not unique; while variety exists, experience is universal for all of us.
Love, Ethan Brown Jones