Waiting silently beneath the dimly lit bus stop, Jayden thought about nothing but suicide.
Not their own – someone else’s. Sitting there, Jayden couldn’t stop this intense focus, this rapidly growing storm inside of them as thoughts and feelings and old conversations and old memories swirled around and around in a violent, painful mass. The reason was simple. Their friend K, of the same age, was studying at a different university halfway across the island, and Jayden was very plainly afraid that K was going to die. Or that she was already dead. She had not responded to their texts and calls for almost a week now – something had to be up. Why Jayden’s mind jumped to the presumption of suicide, they weren’t entirely sure; of course, having lost several loved ones to suicide and living in a country with a rising epidemic of it gave rise to bias, but there could have been a multitude of other reasons for K’s failure to reply. They just weren’t willing to take that chance. Not again.
The bus rolled up right on schedule. Jayden watched and waited as the driver, a familiar young woman with streaky blond hair, opened the rear doors, got out of her seat, and started asking other passengers politely to make way. She lowered the ramp and stepped off the bus onto the trash-laden sidewalk, and Jayden smiled.
“Evening,” the driver said with her usual soft smile.
“Evening, ma’am,” Jayden replied, relinquishing five small coins.
“Want a hand?”
She wheeled them up the ramp and set about strapping their wheelchair to the floor, all the while humming under her breath to the soft radio music. Jayden meanwhile took a quick glance around the interior of the bus. The other passengers paid them no attention.
“Where are you headed?” the driver asked when she was almost done.
“M City,” they replied.
“Same as last time, isn’t it?”
They grinned. “Hey, you remember!”
“Another job interview?”
It was true – Jayden really was going for a job interview. It was scheduled for the next day at 4pm; they hoped to check on K before then. Nowadays, the applications and interviews seemed to never stop. University tuition was on the rise, and they needed to find a way to pay for it – even though they already were with the added stresses of the job search. This particular company they were currently applying for had already interviewed them once, but wanted them to come in for a secondary interview at their headquarters in M City. Jayden hoped that this was a good sign. Their excitement, however, was tempered by K’s week-long silence. It seemed to be good luck that no matter the reason for their trip, their destination was the same.
“Hey, don’t worry about falling asleep, okay?” the driver said with a friendly smile. “I’ll wake you when we get there.”
“Thank you,” Jayden replied, looking up into her eyes. “I really appreciate it.”
She lifted the ramp, closed the doors, and returned to her seat up front. Before long the bus slid steadily into motion. Jayden breathed deeply. Something in their gut told them that this trip would not be perfect. One outcome would be good, the other would be bad. The question was which would be which. Or the bad outcome could be something else entirely. They weren’t typically given to things such as prophecies and fortune-telling, but any human being one day comes to understand that they are not the center of the universe, that things do not always go their way, that each positive must somehow be balanced with a negative – and Jayden had understood this from a very, very young age.
Riding in silence as the bus moved inevitably toward its destination, Jayden remembered K and closed their eyes.