On Tour Buses and Damaged Seats


So back in 1989, whilst in Standard Six (Grade 8 now, I believe) and travelling to a neighbouring school for an athletics meeting, I had to stand for the duration of the trip as all the seats had already been taken.
Standing in the aisle, I had one hand on those handle jobbies that hang from the ceiling, and bracing myself against the turns and the stops and the starts with the other hand on the back of the seat next to me.
Most of these buses were not in a great condition. Sure, they ran well enough and I don’t recall ever having a breakdown en route to a sporting event, but the interior was (mostly) not well maintained. They weren’t dirty, per se, but the plastic of the seats were often cracked or broken, and most of the wooden seat backs were scratched into as years of travelling pupils added their story to the cornucopia of graffiti already etched into them. Food wrappers were kicked aside, tin cans rattled around as the bus took a turn, even the windows were not immune to Magic Marker Art. Sometimes there was a gem to read, but for the most part it was the usual “Suzie is a bitch” or “For a good time call…” or smiling penis pictures.
So on this particular trip, probably in the first half of my high school career, I was messing with just such a maintenance problem. While standing with my hand on the back of the seat, I was thinking all manner of absentminded thoughts while playing with a piece of foam that was sticking out of the damaged plastic. I would squeeze it gently, roll it a little between my fingers, just enjoying the texture and the firm-yet-yielding nature of the foam. I recall it being very cathartic. I was losing myself in the sights and sounds of the trip, almost dreamy eyed and unfocused as I would sometimes press my whole hand into the warmth of the foam, or sometimes just press with one finger, tracing little circles or drawing little shapes.
As we neared the end of our trip and it was announced, I started to wake from my lethargy. One piece of the foam was a little less yielding and for some reason I decided to just pull it out of the back of the seat. I looked down at the foam I had been playing with and found a smooth, human hand instead.
A little frozen now, I turned my glance to the wide-eyed, paralysed face of a girl, sitting in the chair next to me and whose hand had been on the back of the seat in front of her.
The same hand that I had been playing with, caressing and massaging, for twenty minutes.

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