Facing Backwards

Fifty, sixty years ago, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat in the front and go to the back of the bus.

Fast forward fifty, sixty years, and now the back is where the cool kids sit.

I’m not “cool”. Quite frankly, I’m hot. Boiling. It’s 72 degrees, I’m wearing long-sleeves, and the man sitting in front of me has just finished smoking a bong. I can smell it in the dense air.

But I sit in the back. I face backwards, too. That day. Most days.

I face backwards because I didn’t want to face forward, frankly. Facing forward meant making eye contact. Eye contact with people I’m not sure I’d ever meet again, but who were surely judging me with their impassivity. Facing forward meant facing time.

And I didn’t want to face time. Time always moved forward, and I wasn’t ready to do that. I wanted to grow old, stay behind, ruminate over what I’d done that day. Think about what I could have, should have, would have done if I could go back.

I felt the need to hang back and watch. Distance myself from the mainstream that everyone was so eager to follow. I just wanted to be a salmon for fifteen minutes before I got to my stop and struggle through the tumbling molecules, fly through the empty space in between, and nitpick at what I’d said, done, didn’t say, didn’t do.

But time still passes, and I’m not ready to let go yet, to detach so completely that I became a Time Lord. After all, I only have space for one heart in my chest. Maybe that space can stretch into infinite space so that I can always learn to use it and share it, but for now, I’ll stay human, and I’ll stay the emotionally detached memories that keep tumbling through my head like a running fountain. So as I pass each bus stop, getting closer and closer to my stop, I take deep breaths and distract myself with the pattern the leaves make and the fractal the tree branches make.

Slowly, I feel better. I feel less like I want to run away and live in the woods, like Henry David Thoreau. I feel more like I’m ready to face the world again. Face time.

I face forward. Just in time to pull the cord and stumble off the bus.

Back into the world.


Listening to: Seven Hours with a Backseat Driver, by Gotye


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