Mr. Tokida takes the bus home. His eyes are still red. He’d checked in the bathroom mirror before he left the school. A boy, probably in his first year, watched him, washing his hands, wondering why Mr. Tokida was crying into the sink. On the bus the driver asks where it is Tokida would like to go, and Tokida would like to say, “Home,” but catches himself and says, “Parkway Rd.” The driver nods and looks away. Tokida is offensive in his worn blazer, his red eyes.
He sits at the back of the bus, next to the window, and wonders if it’d been a bus that’d hit her. He wonders if he should get out at the next stop, say sorry to the driver, for the hassle, then walk out in front of the number 90 as it pulls away. Ninety, angle of a right-angled triangle, confirm the arrow, pointing which way? Under the bus. In-between the wheels.
Tokida looks at the reel announcing the stops. Next stop is Bridgewood. There’s a children’s playground there, right next to the road. He shouldn’t get squished there. Not next to the children. Maybe at the next stop. Not here, not this stop here, and the bus stops.
Tokida stays still.
“Hi. Hi, Mr. Tokida.”
The teacher looks to his right. There’s a young woman standing there, holding a baby at her waist, the baby is staring at him. It’s difficult to look at the woman and not the baby, who’s staring at him so intently. The woman looks familiar, she’s a student, it’s always a student.
“Remember me?” she laughs, “that was a joke. Can I sit here?”
Tokida can’t find any words, so she sits down next to him.
“I’m Lucy. Lucy Burns. I took your trig class. Six. Seven years ago.”
Mr. Tokida looks at her, “Yes, you’ve hardly changed.”
She laughs. The baby looks startled. Tokida can’t work out whether the baby is a boy, or a girl, it hasn’t been decided, this gender-less blob with indistinct, rounded cheeks and that pervasive baby smell. “You’ve hardly changed at all,” he’d said, except the stretch marks on your stomach, the stretch marks on your brain, under your eyes. How simple it’d be to lie to Lucy, this woman he once knew, but knows no longer. Remove all the angles, the bars, holding him to this moment. Disrupt the equation. No, I don’t remember you very well, Tokida thinks, you were awful at trig and your clothes sometimes smelled like wet dog, so I sat you with the other, wet-dog children.
“My wife was attacked and eaten by a bear today,” Tokida says.
He looks out of the window, purposefully.
Lucy makes an “oh” sound.
I just kept writing with this story. Something about Tokida’s voice fascinated me. I love the idea of the mundane suddenly becoming entangled with a grief that he can’t understand. How does he make sense of it? He can’t. He tries to apply his geometry, his logical brain, but he only hits flat, brick walls. In the end I think he starts to lose his mind. Lucy is too much like his past. His past-self that he has only just abandoned. This is where he begins to spiral. There’ll be more to come.