A Bus Ride

Every year, the New York Times invites students to tell a short story about a meaningful life experience in 600 words or fewer. This was Brooke’s entry.


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It was a blistering hot May day, with the blacktop unforgivingly smoldering and the mist fans crowded with those unable to stand the thick, pre-summer air. The field trip was coming to an end as we all gathered around Hershey Park’s massive carousel, in our specific groups with a chaperone to match. I had a lemonade in hand, the condensation sliding onto my bare legs, as I sipped every ounce of the sourness to make sure it was worth my $8; but it definitely wasn’t.

The day had been filled with long lines, amusement park food, throat scratching screams, and desperate decisions of whether or not to go on Skyrush or the Comet, and oh, were they tough decisions. By the end, we were all exhausted from the adrenaline that came from the fall of a roller coaster or the horror of a haunted house. 

We were ready to go home. 

In our groups we walked a steady pace to the Greyhound buses, a luxury compared to that of the normal, everyday yellow school bus that drove us mad. I flopped down onto a carpeted chair, cushioning my aching body and fumbling with the air conditioning until it felt as if I was standing in the midst of a blizzard. My partner had sat down next to me, quiet as she took a deep breath and closed her eyes, and I knew she was just as exhausted. 

The bus was quiet. 

8th grade buses were never quiet. 

My partner and I had landed in the third bus, a newer version of the three, and conveniently right in front of the “bathroom,” which meant we saw many different faces come through. As the buses finally departed from the park to begin the three hour voyage back home, I must’ve drifted off to sleep. 

There was just something so tranquil, so nostalgic about school bus rides in the dark. When I woke up, groggy and disoriented, I felt as if I had entered another dimension. A movie, Remember The Titans, was playing and the soft, muffled voices acted as white noise to further elicit the peaceful tone. It seemed as if everyone was sleeping, and if not they were on their phones and of no bother to anyone else. I felt as if I was no longer on an 8th grade field trip but rather in a subway, on my morning commute to my job in the city, like a grown up.  

I even realized my partner had dozed off, and I had wondered what she had been dreaming about.

The soft hum of the bus wheels, the black specs of trees and faint neighborhood lights let me feel strangely comforted in a way. I felt a sense of security and safety knowing that my classmates and I really are alike. We had all worked so hard for this,  and now we all sit tired and dreary as we count the minutes down until we can flop into our own beds and recover for the weekend. 

I felt like my sense of reality was altered as we turned into the parking lot, the blue hue of my phone creeping up at 11:00pm, a time so surreal to my 13 year old self. I felt changed, renewed, older and responsible. 

Slowly, the soft groans and shuffles cued that they were all waking up, stretching, gathering their bags as we scoured the window for the familiar sight of our parents’ cars. 

“We’re here.” I said to my partner gently.