Robert stood at the bus stop; his trousers pulled up over his waist, hugging his belly and riding up his ankles – revealing white sports socks, also pulled up. His thin grey hair clumped with gel, strained against the breeze, like palm trees bending in a storm. The deodorant sprayed so liberally it could stop a herd of wild elephants – ‘all the better to hide the sin’ his mother would say.
Robert stood at the bus stop; his right arm stretched out holding on to the metal pole which held the sign, his left trying to smooth down his hair. His feet, shoulder width apart, as he leaned into the wind. His stained white polo shirt was tucked into his trousers, and the sleeves of his grey jacket rode up; on his wrist was a Casio watch, given to him by his parents on his 18th birthday – 34 years ago.
Robert stood at the bus stop; he was waiting for the number 65. He never learned to drive, far too dangerous, his parents insisted. The flat he had always lived in was close to the bus stop, there was nowhere else he needed to go. To work at Thompson and Sons Accounting, the park for the pigeons, and home again – a loop, ad infinitum. Robert stood at the bus stop; this week was different.
Robert stood at the bus stop; he looked down at his socks, two left socks – he smiled. Nobody knows, he thought, my little secret. He pulled his trousers down to cover his socks and redid his belt, now it was sitting around his waist. With his nails, he picked at the brown stain on the belt, then realized it was making them dirty, so stopped. He checked the timetable again, even though he didn’t need to – it was memorized.
Robert stood at the bus stop; on the opposite side of the road a woman and child were walking along the pavement. The sunlight hit their smiles as they laughed and giggled – a cloud passed over the sun and their smiles faded. He wondered how much less sunlight children get, adults being taller like sunflowers reaching for the light, children like the weeds.
Robert stood at the bus stop; the bus arrived, and he helped an old woman to board, then turned his rucksack around to stop anyone from stealing from him. Once a group of children had distracted him and stolen his wallet. He sat down at the back and placed the bag between his legs. Unzipping the bag, he peeked at the rope, elven rope – he fantasized.
Robert sat on the bus; he always sat near the back as he loved the smell of diesel coming from the Leyland 9.8 litre engine. The smell reminded him of school, when at 3:30pm he could run for the bus, and escape. A few rows in front two people were talking and laughing, he couldn’t hear what they were saying, but he knew they were laughing at him.
Robert sat on the bus; as they passed through the town, he could taste the pollution on his tongue, so he closed the window. Someone kissed their teeth and opened it again, looking at him with anger in their eyes. Robert slunk back down onto his seat, picked up his bag from the floor and hugged it tightly – he could feel the straps digging in and felt safe.
Robert sat on the bus; the shops had changed since he was a child, the toy shop had gone, the comic shop closed years ago. The places he used to visit with his parents had all been replaced with shops he daren’t go in to. He’d gone in to one once and the person greeting people had starred at him, there were photos of young tanned people, so he left.
Robert sat on the bus; he passed the cemetery where last week he buried his parents. They’d been married for 60 years and they couldn’t live without each other. His father had a stroke and Robert wasn’t enough for his mother, she’d given up a few days later. He was the only one at the funeral, and the vicar kept calling him John.
Robert sat on the bus; he pressed the bell and got off. The air was cleaner here, surrounded by houses he could smell freshly cut lawns. Birds tweeted and flowers exploded in colour. He liked it here, perhaps in another life he’d have a wife and opportunities.
Robert walked towards the woods; he passed by his old school and stopped to see the children playing happily in the playground. They’ll learn he thought and quickly walked away as a teacher approached.
Robert walked towards the woods; a man was working on his car, the bonnet up and tools strewn all over the drive. Roberts room was always immaculate, his parents insisted, but now it was a mess.
Robert walked towards the woods; he’d spent hours in the woods, alone amongst the trees he was happy, so it only felt right that it should happen here. Fresh rope would work better, it was safer – more secure, he thought.
Robert worked towards the woods; he reached the entrance and took a path less trodden. The dappled light played on his face and he remembered the mother and child.
Robert walked to the end; branches and bushes cut his arms and he left blood on the leaves. He smiled at the pain and the mess he was making.
Robert walked to the end; he stopped in a glade under a big oak tree. He looked up at the nearest branch and admired its height as he breathed the fresh air into his lungs.
Robert walked to the end; he kicked off the leaves covering the trap door.
‘Stop your fucking snivelling’ he said as he climbed down.