She had forgotten to take her umbrella, and a small crowd has already crammed themselves under the bus shelter, but it doesn't matter. She likes the light spring rain on her coat. It’s a warm morning and she doesn't mind waiting, anonymous with her headphones under her hood.
The street lights have just gone out, and the sun stretches over the cherry blossoms. It's so early that the city is still numb from the night, but among the small circle of travelers at the bus station, there's a sense of vacation excitement.
It would be a perfect little morning stroll if only Chacha wasn’t meowing in fright. She feels bad about putting him through the journey–poor fellow, he's cramped in his travel bag and he hates it, but it’s for a good cause. A vacation in the countryside will do them both good, and besides, it's been a long time since she's seen her grandmother.
She leans towards the feline. He stares at her with big emerald eyes.
“You will be fine, chubby” she says.
“He is going to be offended if you call him ‘chubby’.”
She jerks her head up, eyes widening. It is a young man who has just approached her. Normally, she would have ignored him–or pretended she hadn't heard–but her therapist has told her that if she ever wants to overcome her introversion, she needs to take the bull by the horns.
So instead of curling into herself, she takes off her headphones, slowly untangling the mess of cords. Anything to give herself more time to come up with an interesting comeback. What should I be talking about? Weather maybe? But talking is not her thing. She feels that she has already taken too much time to answer, then for lack of better, she tries a laugh.
It is a weak chuckle that emerges from her mouth and she finds herself ridiculous. She suddenly has a crazy urge to run away, to go back and finish her sleep-in under the blanket, in the cozy comfort of her room. But she knows that this would not be a very effective way to improve her shyness.
Fortunately, the young man laughs too. He has a beautiful, clear laugh. The kind of laugh that clears the clouds.
“What are you listening to?” he asks.
She senses a tingling in her stomach because that is a subject she likes. She feels that she is about to let her guard down, to come out of her shell as her grandmother would say, because music is an intrinsic part of her life. And yet she doesn't breathe a word, because a vehicle has just appeared at the corner.
“It's my bus”, she says.
She rearranges Chacha's bag then her own backpack. The young man nods. A kind of small, complicit smile tugs at the edge of his mouth, as if he was a very old friend.
“I wish you a good trip. Maybe we will meet again one day, who knows?”
I’ve just failed another interaction, she thinks as she gets on the bus. He seemed nice. She could have talked to him. In fact, she would have liked talking to him. She would have talked to him about music, and then maybe she would have even asked him some questions of her own. He had an accent, right? A very slight accent?
She sits down, and Chacha immediately mews out a grumble. In less than two hours, he'll be happy as a clam in her grandparents' big house with the veranda and the view of the mountain. He will have a whole world to discover, but he won't leave the couch much. And let's face it, it will probably be the same for her.
She had thrown a jogging suit in her backpack, but it mostly bursts with a bunch of books. Already, she can imagine herself curled up on her grandmother’s couch with Chacha purring at her feet. She’ll stuff her face with her Grandma’s cakes while falling deeper into fantasy worlds–that’s all she wants from the vacation.
Perhaps when her body is too sore from sitting, she’ll venture out to the hiking trails, maybe pluck up a few dandelions. But it's not as much fun since Grandpa isn't around to make her laugh and explain all the names of wild plants.
Because therein lies the problem. She would be all alone on her hikes, and let’s face it, she is already alone enough as it is the rest of the year.
The thought makes her exhale a long breath on the bus window, which turns opaque with fog. It is only then that she feels the burn of someone's gaze and turns. The young man peers up at her from the shelter. She does not know what happens to her: she waves at him.
He waves in his turn, before starting to make other signs. She needs a little time to understand that he wants to know her name.
Her heart skips a beat. Carefully breathing on the glass, she quickly writes the letters backwards on the condensation. Good thing her name is only four letters long.
(Voiceover by Johann Wic)