Old Acquaintance

Áron Antal

– So going back to the previous proof, we can define the sum of the resistances in an alternating current system as the sum of the…

The bell interrupted the physics teacher at the end of the ninth period. He finished his sentence, said something about the importance of these circuits and told us the homework. I didn’t listen to it. I couldn’t. My mind was cut off at the moment the bell rang, and now it was on its way home. My body wasn’t. Some part of me knew that no matter how bad this day was, it couldn’t make its escape yet from the school, that it had to remain in the uncomfortable cold chair in the first row of the physics lecture hall. But as soon as my eyes noticed that the teacher was leaving the classroom, my body hesitated no more, and made its way through the long and dark tall hallways illuminated by a few pale light bulbs.

As I gazed out the majestic windows of the school, the darkness outside made the windows function more like mirrors. I saw that my eyes looked tired and my visage looked terribly beaten up, despite the fact that I had pumped myself full of coffee. Just like yesterday. Or the day before yesterday. I hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in six days. Don’t know why. Sometimes it just happens.

At this moment my mind realized that while it was executing this thought process, I was far away from school, out on the cold damp streets, on my way to the bus station. Not many people were out walking at this time of hour under these weather conditions. Not like cars. So many. Flooding the streets, flooding my head with noise and light. Nowadays everyone has a car. Why can’t people compromise? Why can’t they join each other in the pursuit of a destination? All these people sitting alone in these metal boxes as if a cruel god-like child were playing at home with toy cars while his parents were at work, easing his loneliness with the idea that all car drivers must sit alone in their metal boxes. Humans have become lonely beings.

By the time I finished this fever-dreamish thought process, I was already at the bus station, staring at the buzzing lights of the platform. Didn’t even notice it. I got on the bus; as I showed my pass to the driver, I looked ahead to search for a pair of seats where no human was sitting. Most of the pairs were occupied by a single individual, except for some where seemingly couples sat staring into the abyss of their smartphones without any interaction and perception of the outside world or each other. So I sat down on an unoccupied pair, closer to the window on the driver’s side.

As hour-like minutes went by as the bus was waiting to leave the station, I was staring out of the window. My face seemed unfamiliar in its reflection. In that reflection, I saw a body standing behind me, and a voice shortly followed its appearance.

– Is this seat reserved for someone? May I take a seat? – said a soothing voice.

– Yes of course – I replied as I turned my head. – Katie?

– Yes, oh my goodness! Long time no see! – said my old classmate Katie from elementary school.

– Yeah. How have you been? How long has it been? Four years?

– Yes. I am fine, thank you! How are you?

– Not in my best shape, but thanks, I’m holding up just fine.

After catching up and properly concluding that four eventful years had gone by since we last saw each other, we started chatting about school, classmates, and then the topic drifted to deeper thoughts. In elementary school, we didn’t really talk to each other, didn’t hate each other or anything, it just happened to be that way. But now I felt  as if we had been best friends all along. Maybe we had just grown up.

The conversation went on and on, and I felt that the world beyond these two seats on this bus wandering in the darkness on a road between endless bare fields had ceased to exist.

– Are you on social media? – she asked.

– Only on Messenger. I don’t have any other social media platform. That is the bare minimum you have to have – I replied.

– It’s for the better, I suppose. I only have Messenger too. All the other platforms just soak you in, ripping you out of reality, right?

– I have to agree. I can’t imagine what people do all day on these platforms, while they could be doing something productive. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t consume any media, but most people have gone overboard. Can’t they feel how short their life is, that every moment spent staring at the screen of your phone looking at celebrities wishing you were that rich or beautiful and wishing for a better life takes your chance away from making your own better? That even the smallest things in life make a difference and they should appreciate the little time every human being is given.

– I couldn’t have said it better myself – Katie replied.

At that moment the bus was approaching the stop where Katie had to leave.

– I was glad that we could talk. It was a pleasure – I said.

– Yes, I hope I will see you around! Have a nice day! Even in this weather.

– You too, Katie!

I was now alone again, but I didn’t feel like it. Her memory was with me, which made my soul shine with happiness on the bus, while all the other people sat there “alone.”

Even these small things in life like an old acquaintance can make you feel better both about yourself and about the world: that you can always find like-minded persons on the busride of life, but only if you gaze in the right direction.

I don’t think I need to mention that I had a good night’s sleep after this day.