Being the furthest away, I’m the first to be picked up by the bus in the morning.
Following the same logic, I’m also the first one dropped off after school.
This means that every, single kid on our route has to sit on the bus an extra forty minutes each afternoon.
Just for me.
Full of hormones and blind hatred, the kids in last few rows of the long, yellow bus make their displeasure over my arrival well known almost daily.
Moaning and groaning as soon as I appear, making me nervously skitter to a seat near friendlier faces and the exit.
The hardcore insults come later, cloaked in the anonymity of the rumbling and motion of the bus.
Deaf to what he hears, the bus driver just goes where he’s told.
In the opposite direction of where every kid on the bus – except me – lives.
United by the same neighborhood, my after-school assailants snarl and nip at the back of my neck like chained dogs, piercing my thin skin.
It’s us versus them in every nasty word. But the “them” they think I am is absolutely absurd.
When their rabid, back row words have more than their usual bite, I step from the bus and veer off the road, searching for a way to shake their words in the thick, dim patches of unpeopled forest.
I disappear among the yellow and ember-colored autumn leaves which cap the many trees of Shoreacres. Before the heavy freeze steals the color from the land.
Until the sound of my breathing, the movement of the clouds, and the wildlife going about their business, gives me the inclination to go about my own.
And to replenish my soul with the comforts of home.