Two years ago I met a boy on the midnight bus to Edinburgh and for the night I fell in love. That sounds like a song, doesn’t it? Like that song by Journey everyone knows. But it was real, even though I still can’t believe my own memory. It wasn’t true love or deep love, but it was a closer step to true and deep than I had been before. Sometimes all it takes is the right context, the thermostat of life turned just right, and all the affectations of affection dazzle in a cubic zirconium sham that shines just as brightly as capital L-O-V-E, if only for an instant.
I think about that bus ride often. I think about the shabby big city darkness outside as my birthday slipped into just another day without me even noticing. London could barely keep its eyes open–even that grand old dame has to sleep sometime. I think about those thick seconds of indecision as I picked a seat and then the surprise I felt as this guy sat down next to me. I think about the awkward quiet and then the later conversations that knit up the space between us. I can’t even remember what was said but I can remember how it made me feel: soft, valued, seen. I remember wanting to feel that way more.
We talked for hours as London turned to suburbs and suburbs turned to villages and then the villages turned into blank swaths of land, though the dark outside was so absolute and my attention so completely held I had no idea what we passed. There were lives being lived and journeys besides mine being made and we were all existing on the earth together. But I was also on another planet entirely as he shared his music with me and we leaned back in our separate seats together, no touch at all.
Who knows what stretch of time passed before I let my shoulders slide across the seat, inch by inch, carried by the smooth revolutions of the tires beneath us. Body met body–my shoulder to his–and the tension that had built in the quiet of the sleeping bus seemed to crackle and hiss. I was not shaken off. I was not repelled. He was not indifferent. Instead, this stranger who was not a stranger anymore raised an arm to cradle my side.
Our angles settled into each other and by the time the sky to our right began to lighten, we stretched out across the two seats, hands tangled up together. We watched the sunrise hit the water below the cliffside road as sea met coastline and the whole time I kept trying to imprint it all in my memory because moments like the one I was living don’t happen often. It felt as though some almighty hand in the sky were writing a scene from a book as we both laid back and marveled at how strange this ride had been.
My neck was tender with kisses and my throat with tears when we arrived at the station because I didn’t want the story to end–this fantasy I couldn’t have believed if it hadn’t happened to me. We held each other, in that Edinburgh station, and I think we both knew we’d never see each other again. At least, not on purpose. And we wouldn’t be the same people even if we did. So, he offered me a ride to my hostel which could have ended badly (and I certainly don’t recommend it) but instead of murdering me, he held my hand when he wasn’t changing gears and told me the names of the buildings we passed.
I never wanted to find the hostel. I wanted to ride with him into forever. But the gray morning let up to show the sign of where I would be staying the night and he was late to surprise his mother for her birthday and it was on the cobbled street between brick buildings still stained with Victorian soot that we gave a final kiss goodbye. I watched him drive away and waved one last time and despite the fog, I think I saw him wave back, too.
What keeps pulling me back into remembering isn’t the experience itself but the perfect narrative of it. Please, if any aspiring filmmakers want to use this story, by all means, be my guest. I haven’t even mentioned how just an hour after he had driven away I went up the Royal Mile to visit Edinburgh Castle and witnessed my first eclipse.
I carried him and his touch and his words with me where I gathered with the crowd as though we were participating in the vestige of some pagan rite. I remember the strange sepia shade that broke through the clouds, highlighting the ancient stones of Edinburgh Castle two springs ago. The light of the eclipse streamed in fractured rivulets through the clouds and burned my eyes but I kept trying to sneak a glance at the sun. I wrapped my woolen sweater around me and tried to watch the sun bare-eyed. And the headache I earned trying to do so was worth the instinctual rush we all got standing subdued as we watched the earth rotate, something it does every moment of every day and yet because we could see it in a pronounced way, it was remarkable. I think life works the same way.