“The bus will be here soon,” my grandmother announced.
I hadn’t been on a school bus since the eighth grade, but it was different here. Here was a podunk town too small for a transit system. Everyone rode the school bus. Kindergartners and twelfth graders, alike, all on the bus headed to the same building to learn the required curriculum.
“Okay,” I replied, then excused myself to the bathroom for the second time that morning. I hadn’t even eaten breakfast, so I wasn’t sure why my stomach was gurgling and what my body was eliminating.
“Are you nervous?” My grandmother asked.
The first day of senior year was nothing like I’d envisioned. My friends in Chicago, the ones I’d gone to school with since first or seventh grade knew me. They knew I was part goofy, part serious. They knew if I looked at you funny, then I was probably judging your hair, clothes, or speech. But they also didn’t care. Would these new people understand, or would they do like most new people did with me and assume I was stuck up or bougie?
“No,” I replied. It was easier than admitting the truth and then having her turn my fear into a speech about the uselessness of fear or into some inspirational moment on apprehension.
I went to the bathroom one more time.
“The bus should’ve been here by now. School’s starting soon,” my grandmother said. “Bernie, you’ll have to take her.”
Divine intervention. My stomach was relieved. I wasn’t supposed to be on the school bus after all, not at seventeen, not my senior year, not today. Maybe God would also perform some act that reversed everything that had happened up until this point. Maybe I would be transported back to Chicago, where I would meet my friends on the L, where we’d revel in our senior status, mimic house music songs while waiting on the train, and fantasize about post-graduation plans.
My grandfather dropped me off in front of the one-story brick building.
“Have a good day,” he said.
“Okay, I replied,” and I knew I would because I planned on keeping quiet and shrinking into the building and its smallness, hoping no one would notice me or my sudden urge to use the bathroom every ten minutes. I hoped I’d disappear into this nothingness of a town.