The Journey: a means of travelling from one place to another: a life: metaphoric; physical; psychological….
Where will it end?
When was it that you learnt to blame your parents for everything? In your weaker moments?
When was it that you learnt that you could wipe out your memory with alcohol, or that coffee would propel you on and on to the next page, memo, job?
“On a bus?”
“This is the number 26.”
“Oh, yes. I see what you mean.”
No changing it.
You can’t morph into somebody else.
If you could change places with those seemingly so-lucky-children travelling in the next seats from Richmond station into a privileged education in London. Life. But these people are time poor; thing rich and time poor.
Is life really all mapped out, depending on your background, and the school you went to, except for a few lucky ones?
You were screaming inside, hey notice me, this is me; I don’t want to colour in another bloody picture or sit next to that child that you can’t be bothered to educate yourself just because I am well behaved and grew up in a council house. I learnt one thing though – patience. Waiting to get off.
For a while you are travelling in the wrong direction. The motion propels you forward. You have no choice but to do well at it. That job you fell into—in central London. You’re good at it. It will do.
One day, you tell yourself. One day I will get off this bus for good. One day I will stop doing this stupid job that I hate and start to do something that I love.
“Is this seat taken?”
Patience. Just a little while longer. Till then, ignore everyone, because, well because they would never understand you.
It isn’t until some kindly Judas gives you the oxymoronic kiss-of-death that you stop hating yourself. And every day, every day, for a lifetime you begin to do that thing that you love. You begin to love yourself.
You begin to say I am a writer, or whatever it was that was calling your name; to feel, I am a writer, to write and to write well. Still you get the rejection slips from the people who know.
Well they must know. Somebody must know.
But you’re doing it; right? Better than not doing it.
You are being so brave, collecting paper; the proverbial rejection slips.
Nothing is perfect. Nothing is perfect. Nothing is perfect. Nobody’s perfect. Funny how the rhythm of a BUS can create words isn’t it?
Nobody’s perfect becomes your mantra. It’s this wall you put up so that you can carry on being less than perfect for a while until somebody notices that it isn’t all bad being less than perfect, and lends you a hand.
“Your enthusiasm is encouraging but there are too many basic errors in spelling—”
“We are sorry that this is not right for our publication—”
“We wish you luck placing it somewhere else—”
“We are a small agency—”
“Why not look in the Writers and Artists Yearbook? —”
“It’s been 35 years.”
You catch yourself looking old, ugly, fat and tired in the glass of the bus window at night. It’s the only time you can see your reflection. Something is screaming at you: it’s too bloody late.
YA fiction is all the rage. You could write that.
Na, not until I’m dead. Then my travelling will be— different. I was born to do this. This thing I am doing now. I love it. Can’t you see it in my eyes—the light, and the dark tunnels? All there. The empathy. The will. The passion. This doing. This being. This journey; this journey.
“She’s asleep daddy.”
Look at him. Just once. Will you just look at him? It isn’t a crime to look.
“I’m not asleep. I just like ignoring people. I suppose it is all the rejections. One less conversation equals one less rejection.” (I’M DEPRESSED – THIS IS HOW YOU BEHAVE WHEN YOU ARE DEPRESSED—NOT HOW EDITORS EXPECT YOU TO.)
“Ah, you mean like one less story equals one less rejection?”
“No. I don’t send them out anymore. I still write them. I can’t stop myself. I tried once. I nearly went mad. The stories are inside me, knocking, screaming, like people; they are people. Waiting to get out. They are, well, like passengers.”
“That’s interesting. I want to be a writer.”
The girl is just like her daddy. “That part is easy. You just write. And it doesn’t matter what age you are because there will always be a reader for every story. Except, sometimes it’s only a few readers.”
“I should say, I am a writer. That’s what dad tells me. You write every day, so you’re a writer.”
“I like your beret. I read a story once by a popular writer who wrote about an author whose book was only read by a few people; still, that book influenced the whole world.”
“Who wrote it?”
“I think the writer’s name was—”
“Was that an ambulance? Those sirens really hurt my ears—doesn’t anybody realise that when you get older things hurt? Your hearing gets sharper and they call it being deaf and then begins the shouting. Then the condescending sentences; people telling you things you already know; things you learnt when you were a puppy. Assumptions and projections. The assumptions bit is all in a book by Kant.
“Mum tells me it’s a crime not to use your gifts. It’s a parable: the parable of the gifts and talents.”
“Mmm. I’ve heard it. Did you know that Stoner was not read until decades after the death of the author? Have you heard of that essay? The Death of the Author? It’s an essay by Roland Barthes. I’m glad he wrote the book though. He was ahead of his time. You’ll probably read it when you are older, if that doesn’t sound too patronising. Shall I tell you a secret? I didn’t get into Dickens until I was in my forties. I couldn’t see the appeal at all. Still, I did read Jane Eyre when I was 8 or 9. I have a theory that Jane Eyre was really the first ever crossover book.”
I told you, I’m depressed. Depressed people don’t get out much. That’s why, when they do, they get verbal diarrhea.
“What is Jane Eyre about?”
“Subjugation; nature; human nature; conditioning; passion; desire; essence; a whole gamut of things.”
“I’ve just read Allie Condie. My mum likes her too. Mum and dad are divorced.”
“Evie, we had better stop talking to this lady. She is a writer and she is in the middle of a story. I recognize you. Didn’t you write ‘The Journey?’”
“Yes. Yes, I did. How much time do you spend on Twitter? Lol. And then I changed it to The Night Bus; I got on this bus; the number 26. Is that why you’re here? It’ll take you anywhere you want to go—”
An indie author, Hermione Laake has written several stand-alone works of fiction for children. She also writes under the pen name Hermione Wilds, and has a blog hermionelaake.wordpress.com, where she publishes essays and poems.