Jay Manzanilla missed the last bus heading back to Santa Ana by mere minutes. The tail of the bus seemed to be giving him the finger as he tried to race towards the driver. But the driver looked ahead and drove on. Jay just wanted to get back. He already wasted so much time. The forecast of rain hadn’t manifested yet, but he knew it was coming. The evening news said so. His phone pestered him with the weather update.
He walked back at the stop and sat on the bench beside the stop. He wouldn’t be this irritated had he not forgot his black umbrella. He could see it leaning against the back of the front door. He was in such a hurry, he forgot. He hoped another bus would come soon, but he knew it wouldn’t. The rain would come any minute now, but he wouldn’t be able to do anything about it except to let it drench him.
Apart from the lack of umbrella, apart from the uncertainty of the weather, he thought how it didn’t make any difference at all. Jay transferred hotels from Philly to California in order to work closer to Louisa. To be near her. Because the voice inside his head told him to follow his heart, to take the same route to the other side of the country where she took a job in graphic design with a sunglasses company. So he followed his heart because his heart was with Louisa.
“This is a great opportunity!” Jay told her. Louisa Savant told him in the car on their way to finding a Dunkin’ Donuts somewhere in the middle of Philadelphia. It was 11 o’clock at night on a Thursday and she didn’t want to go home just yet. Louisa wanted coffee and donuts and Jay was more than happy to oblige her craving. But just as those words of encouragement exited his mouth, it was as if a draft entered Jay’s heart which made his ribs… his bones shiver. He felt cold, even if it was humid and the temperature soared to high 80’s. Inside the well-lighted place, Louisa rambled on about the California coast and how it would be nice to join her family again. Her excitement spilled from her and Jay could only feign joy in front of her, as he tried to listen and bear all her good news, even if his stomach turned and his forehead surged with nervous perspiration. And none of it was due to the powdered, jelly donut he selected or the large coffee with extra cream and sugar he ordered. Looking at Louisa and how explicit her joy showed through her eyes down to her lips and even on the lines on her forehead jabbed at him more and more and stung him left and right; he knew this would be the last they would be like this. What he was feeling was irrelevant and Jay knew he couldn’t possibly tell her because he didn’t want to hold her back.
Even if the voice told him to go, Jay shouldn’t have. It blindsided Louisa when he did, when Jay arrived at the parking garage of the sunglasses company and found Louisa talking to an executive. Except the way the man in his distinct blue suit rested his hand on Louisa’s shoulder made him seem more than an executive and Jay thought he had been deceived. He came to confess his feelings, but Louisa only glanced at Jay as though he was a parking attendant. Louisa turned around and never looked back.
He stood up and looked as far as he could down the road to see if a bus, any bus was coming. It would be here soon, he thought. He just wanted to go back to his tiny apartment, as far away from Louisa. He sat back down and pulled a crumpled piece of paper from his back pocket. His heart was starting to hurt. Maybe he should’ve declared his feelings in Philadelphia when it was more defined and he was more certain about what he felt compared to now, on this bench, doubting his decision to cross the country for Louisa. He felt his eyes get warm.
“What time’s the bus coming, Son?” An elderly black woman approached next to him holding a bag full of groceries and her purse on her shoulder. She had gray hair and a slightly rotund figure. There were roses embroidered on the pockets of her gray sweater.
“I’m not sure. I’m hoping soon!” Jay responded. He lifted from his seat and offered it to the woman.
“Soon’s about half an hour from now. Plenty of time to rest.” She sat down where Jay vacated. She continued, “Young man, did you drop that piece of paper right there?” She pointed to the paper that had fallen right before Jay’s feet on the pavement.
Jay stared at it for a moment. Perhaps, it was time to let it go. All his harbored feelings, this mistake he wrote on a piece of paper, but he picked it up anyway.
“What is it?” she asked.
“Nothing important,” he retorted. He gripped it tight inside his hand, the disappointment and anger finally unraveling and spreading the length of his arms and to his fingers.
“Must be pretty important for you to hold it like that. And your eyes… you look like your about to cry because you missed the bus!” she smiled, slightly, having already sensed an uncanny sadness about him.
“It’s nothing. It’s just something I wrote for someone, that’s all,” he told her.
“Why don’t you read it to me? I hardly read anymore with my eyes going bad and all. Those books on CD’s is all I get at the public library.” She grabbed her purse and pulled out some folded tissues. She dabbed her forehead and neck with it before she asked, “Why don’t you read it to me? It’s nice to hear something live for a change and not recorded.”
Jay hesitated, “I don’t know how I might react afterwards.”
“That’s alright son. I won’t tell nobody!” she assured him as she took a hold of his hand.
Jay straightened the piece of paper and read aloud.
mistakes to which we are bound—
i want to make them with you.
step down from the cloud we
conceal imperfections and
open up to the stars, clearly
wish upon it our hope, pray
that in our humbly cupped hands,
a blessing lands us a lifetime
beside one another. see past
the errors and flaws so we
may be ushered towards the
light of change, until our
spirits mirror clarity and
we return as promised,
unbound, towards destiny
This had been at the heart of him for many years. It sounded strange hearing it out loud. The words which flowed from him since meeting Louisa for the first time four years ago now instigated the beginning of tears towards the edge of his eyes. He tried to hold back what he could, without showing the elderly woman in front of him.
“The bus is coming. I can hear it, young man! The bus is coming.” She held tightly to Jay’s lifted from her seat and lifted her bag off the floor. She walked up and stood beside Jay. Both stared to the northerly side where they can see the bus finally heading towards their stop.
“Those were some incredible words, young man,” she continued, “as you can see, when you miss the the bus, there’s always one coming right after.” She got her bus pass out of her pocket and looked at Jay once more, “best you save that poem for the next bus coming!”
©Mary Rose Gahon