The best thing about writing is that I don’t have to make sense. The beauty about it is the mess. The mystery about it is where the blur between fiction and reality starts. The greatness about it is the getting to know where that blur is.
“Alright, mum, I’m going,” she calls out to me as I start clearing up the kitchen. I wipe my hands on my apron and walk towards the front door, where she is putting on her running shoes.
“Okay, darling. Get an early start. Enjoy your trip. Be careful and remember to be subtle, okay?” I give her a big hug.
“Yes, mom, I’ll try! But I can’t wait! This is so exciting!”
“Subtle, dear, subtle,” I gently remind her, and wink. “You don’t want to scare her or change anything that could happen. You know how she is.”
“Yes, mom,” she laughs, as she runs towards the bus stop for her bus to the city. “You were one crazy gal!”
I laugh and wave as I see her figure slowly disappear around the corner. My darling girl, my 18-year-old. She was off on a big adventure, bigger than the ones I’d had, and I was excited for her. Scared, but excited. She was only going to be gone for a few days, but she was going to a world she was not a part of. She was traveling to the past. She was traveling to my past.
Am I here? Is this the right year?
The words had barely registered in her mind when a bus zoomed past her. On the side was an advertisement for a musical.
On Sale Now. Opens March.”
Yes, she had landed in the correct year. 2015. The year her mom was 23. Tomorrow night was the big night, but for now, she needed to find a place to relax for bit. She took out her little notepad (because she loved the novelty of writing with a pen), and went through her notes.
“Monday: Take a bus to the city. Stay at the Sheraton. Don’t forget to say thank you, even to the bus driver.
“Tuesday afternoon: Take the train to West Ryde, wait for the 7:31 pm bus to Carlingford. Board the bus ahead of everyone else and choose the second to the last seat in the back. Left-hand side. Be subtle, honey.”
She smiled at the notes her mom had written down for her, and walked to the nearest bus stop. 2015 wasn’t so different in a way. There were marks of everything familiar.
“Is this bus going into the city?” she asks as the bus driver loads passengers.
“Yep,” he nods and smiles through his dark sunnies.
“Great! Can I have a ticket please?” she asks.
“There you go, doll. Four twenty, please.”
She pays him, grabs the ticket, and starts walking towards a seat.
“Oh, thank you!” She turns as she remembers to thank him.
“You’re alright!” the driver calls back, grinning.
I had no idea what time it was, because my phone battery had already died. All I knew was that it was dark, cold, and I had to get on the 7:31 bus to Carlingford. I had decided to take the train to West Ryde and the bus from there to home, because there was some sort of accident that had happened on my normal train track route. I had also finished late at work, and I was exhausted.
The train finally stopped at West Ryde station, and I hopped off.
“Buses: West Parade” said the sign, and I went. I saw a couple of bus stop sheds, and to my relief, it had “513 Carlingford” on one of the lists. 7:31. I had no idea how long I had to go before that time.
I sat on one of the vacant metal benches outside the sheds and waited.
After a few minutes, I could no longer help it.
“Excuse me, can you tell me the time?” I ask the man sitting across me.
“Oh, yeah, sure. It’s ten past seven.”
“Thanks,” I let out a sigh of relief. I now had a grasp on time.
She arrived at West Ryde station an hour early. This was the big night, and right after it happened, she would be going home to tell her mom all about it. She had checked out of the hotel in the afternoon, and she had all her stuff with her, her running shoes on again.
The sun was still up, and she was too excited to sit.
I’ll walk to the bus stop before this one, so I can strategically choose my seat! she thought to herself, and off she went.
The electronic sign on the arriving bus made me sigh again. I was extremely tired. I stood up and queued to get on.
As I looked for a seat, there was only one spot left: the one in the very back, on the left-hand side, behind a girl with long brown hair. She was looking at me, but so was everyone in the bus looking at all the new passengers walking in.
I took my seat and heaved yet another sigh of relief. Finally, I can relax a bit. I leaned my head on the window and blankly stared at everything around me.
As the twenty-three-year-old girl walked down the bus aisle towards the only seat remaining in the back, she looked tired and out of it. Great. It meant that she wouldn’t pay too much attention.
The eighteen-year-old turned her head towards the window to try to catch a glimpse of the girl behind her through the images reflected by the interior bus lighting against the dark city sky.
I caught myself staring at the brown head of hair sitting in front of me. Her hair was long, a cross between light and dark brown, and beautiful. Not curly, not straight, but soft-looking and shiny. It smelled faintly of some conditioner. I could not look away.
I got curious about this head of hair: she was by herself, with a huge backpack sitting beside her.
Maybe she’s just come back from a camping trip or a long overseas trip. Ooh. She’s wearing a floral headband. It suits her hair. I wonder if her face is as pretty as her hair.
She slowly turns her face towards the window, and I catch a glimpse of her profile. Beautiful, definitely. Familiar, very. Around eighteen years old. Perfect nose. Beautifully-shaped eyes. Familiar eyes. She has a peaceful and friendly look on her face, a welcome change from all the haggard and tired faces I see on the bus. My brain suddenly becomes fuzzy from trying to think of who she looks like.
A few bus stops later, the girl presses the Stop button. She grabs her humongous backpack and swings it over her shoulders. As she turns to hop off the bus, at the last minute, she turns around, and looks straight at me with a sweet smile. My brain is confused even more because of how familiar she looks, but before I can process anything fully, she turns towards the front.
“Thank you!” a sweet, soprano voice sings out. What a beautiful voice, I think.
My eyes follow her, and as she walks outside beside the bus she catches my eyes and smiles at me. I look away and pretend to not be staring. Who is she?
That went very well, she thought to herself. I think mom recognized me a little bit there, but oh, well. I think that’s the point.
She rounded the corner into a spot away from the street lights, and proceeded to take her time travel gear out of her backpack. That was an awesome moment. I can’t wait to tell mom and dad all about this!
My mind was spinning. It had been a few minutes after the girl had gotten off the bus, but I couldn’t stop thinking about her. She was beautiful and tall. Not lanky tall, but gorgeous tall. About 167 cm. She was not skinny, but she was slim. Healthy and active, judging from the running shoes and the huge backpack. She was wearing a skirt that went to her knees. Christian, I guessed.
But what was it about her that was so familiar? I looked out the window and saw myself reflected on it, and suddenly, it struck me.
I saw my face reflected on the window, and I knew. Her eyes were my eyes, only more beautiful and a lighter brown. Her face was my face, only more beautiful. She did not have my nose, thankfully. She had a little bit of freckles. Her smile was my smile. She looked like me, only more beautiful.
I knew, and I felt my heart skip a beat. I did not know how it could happen, but I knew.
That girl–that beautiful girl who was smiling at me– was my daughter.