Mid-July sun warmed my face as I waited for the 36. The bakery behind the bus stop, Cup These Cakes, caused a lot of drama with the conservative women in town, but filled the air with the delicious scent of fresh-baked bread. It's hard to complain about the name of the place when the gals behind the counter produce some of the best lemon glazed pastries I've ever had the fortune of sinking my teeth into.
I didn't move quickly anymore. I didn't care to hurry, even if I had still been able. I walked with a cane, and I found myself accosted at nearly every street corner by well-meaning girls and boys looking to earn their 'Help A Geezer' badge from whichever group they belonged to.
The bus pulled up, bringing along with it the usual scent of gasoline fumes. Dust coated my tongue when I inhaled, and I coughed violently. The kind of cough that shakes your frame and makes you wonder if you're about to pass out. Or throw up. A woman behind me put her hand on my shoulder. "Are you okay? Would you like some water?"
"No," I said, once I stopped coughing, "I'll be fine. My lungs just don't agree with all the fresh air the bus brings with it."
She laughed. With the aid of my cane, I carefully navigated up the steps of the bus. Swiping my card, I heard the familiar "beep" that meant I was allowed to sit for a few blocks. I moved slowly down the aisle, careful not to trip over anyone's extended foot or poorly-placed backpack.
I sat near the back, asking first to make sure an empty seat wasn't taken. It wasn't. It felt great to be off my feet, even for just a few minutes of a bus ride. My knees felt creaky. I sometimes wished I was a robot so all it would take was a can of oil to fix me up. My granddaughter Leslie would love to be related to a real Tin Man. I chuckled to myself at the image.
The bus began moving once the new passengers all seated themselves. The seats vibrated as the engine worked to bring the bus up to speed. A mother a few seats behind me worked to keep her children from running all over the aisle and other passengers. A man in front of me struggled to keep his music device working; his curses and the broken pieces of a woman's heartfelt lyrics alternated to create a new song entirely.
Before anyone could figure out what had happened, we found ourselves in the middle of a bus crash. Horns blared outside, and the bus jerked sharply to the right. Strangers fell against me, against everyone on my side of the bus. The squeal of metal on metal would have bothered me more, were it not for the fact I was busy trying to breathe. Everything went into slow motion, like it does in the movies.
All I knew was that we'd hit at least one car, and from the sound of it, one had run into the back of the bus as well, probably causing more issues behind them. We came to a stop, and most of the passengers had stopped screaming. One woman in the back continued to wail, in fear as well as in pain. Warm, thick liquid dripped down my forehead, and for a moment, I hoped it wasn't mine.
A sharp pain in my chest warned me that someone's misplaced elbow might have broken a rib. People struggled away from the right side of the bus, and a child began to cry near the front. The smell of rubber and hot metal filled the interior of the bus, and I began to cough again. Sirens filled the air as police cars and ambulances showed up to help the injured from the vehicles involved in the wreck. Hopefully to arrest the asshole who caused it all, too.
My heart beat painfully in my chest. How terrible would that be to die in a bus crash, not because of the actual crashing, but because of a heart attack only minutes later? EMTs helped people out of the bus and checked everyone. No fatalities, thank the Lord, and only a few injuries serious enough to warrant a trip to the hospital. One medic sat me down on the back of his ambulance. My heart still worked overtime in my chest, and I gripped my cane firmly.
"Are you okay, mister? How many fingers am I holding up?"
"I can't see how many fingers you've got up, son. I'm blind." I said. I smiled, perhaps a little sardonically. "Been blind my whole life."
Writing Exercise: Write a story about a bus crash from the point of view of a blind man. Don't let on that he's blind until the end of the story.