A schooner in a dark sea

There’s something melancholy about the bus at night. Not at six, when everyone’s making their way home after work. Or even at seven, when the overtime stragglers, worn about the eyes, thinking about dinner, finally start their journeys.

Later than that, after nine, when the bus driver dims the inside lights, and has started playing music that’s never loud enough for anyone else to enjoy. Just loud enough to hear, an underlying drone like the sound of the engine, smudging the edges of reality. Everyone is quiet; in their heads. You look out at a blackness filled with tail-lights of cars, red eyes on black, thousands of others in their dark little bubbles. I write them little stories in my head. Places they’re going, places they’re running from. I think everyone must feel the same on the road at night. The same weird melancholy. The same sense that things are not quite right.

Bus stations, metro stations, little islands of artificiality with their spotlight halos picking out the shoreline. The sense of liminality lasts until you cross that line. Then reality seeps back, filling you up with flesh, and the travellers disperse like dandelion seeds, disappearing to their manifold lives. The faint lines of crossed paths – of a shared existence in one vessel –  fade into nothing.

There’s something strange about the bus at night. Sometimes I am in the mood, and ride that melancholy with a soundtrack in my ears and a pen in my hand, sketching streetlights, doing little and nothing of the writing I might have intended. The poetry never makes it into words. Some nights I am in no such mood, and stare out the window, and wonder who these people are around me. Who are they going home to? Is there somebody who loves them?

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