Short Story | ‘Alicia #1′ by Victor Pinto, Illustration by Shantala Robinson
She stared down the street towards the direction from where the bus usually came. It would be here any minute now. She pulled her phone out from her pocket and checked the time. She had been waiting for over twenty minutes. It was now a few minutes past 10 o’clock, and the bus wasn’t there yet. It was late. Buses were always late.
She had an appointment at 11 o’clock and was starting to get anxious. If the bus arrived soon, she should still make it there on time. There shouldn’t be too much traffic at this time.
She squinted as the blaring morning sun flooded her eyes. Standing still meant the sun would bake her arms and head, but moving around meant more sweat coming out of every pore. It was too early for her to be awake. She was eager to get this over with and go back to sleep.
At 10:19 the bus appeared in the distance, and she felt an unusual rush of anxiety as she thought of the time. It was over thirty minutes late. Once on the bus, she glared at the driver trying to convey her frustration. Naturally, the driver ignored her and kept driving, apparently unaware or indifferent to anyone else’s time constraints. She felt a wave of resignation as she realized that nothing she did was going to solve anything. She thought to herself “just breathe, pay, and move on.”
She turned towards the back of the cold bus and received all the understandable stares for being the new person to enter the bus.
She quickly disregarded the glances. People always stared at her. She was very pretty. It didn’t matter what she was wearing or where she was, men and women always stared and judged, questioned, or fantasied to themselves about her. She hated it but had learned to expect it.
There were plenty of available seats. It’s interesting how people tend to sit near others but usually don’t get too close. The result was that the front section of the bus held the majority of people, but almost every seat next to someone was empty. She had a lot of options.
A lot goes into choosing a seat. Location: is it near the back where it is noisy, near the front where traffic is bound to pile up, or what side was the sun not shining on? People: Are there people talking and acting a fool, does anyone look like they might summon up the courage to spark a conversation (she did not feel like getting hit on today), or are there any bums or unkempt people that may have caused the surrounding vicinity to smell?
The task of choosing the right seat goes through everyone’s head and has to be carried out quickly so as not to risk being stared at for a prolonged period of time nor to offend anyone for not sitting nearby. This choice had to be made in a manner that seemed as if there was no thought put into it.
These thoughts passed quickly through her head, but made no lasting impact. She was in a hurry and settled into the closest available seat. The seat was next to a middle aged man who seemed to be completely unaware of her and was consumed by his own thoughts as he stared out the window at nothing in particular.
Immediately after placing her book bag on her lap, she went about taking in her surroundings. As a 16 year old girl without any parents or supervision, this skill had improved throughout her life and proved to be essential to her survival. It was imperative to be aware of any potential threats and constantly to keep an accurate feeling for her environment.
There were exactly 14 people on the bus. With the exception of two elderly women in the front, all the passengers seemed to be keeping to themselves and their thoughts.
However, her attention was consumed by a young man two seats in front of her. He was rudely resting his legs on the seat next to him. She looked over at him disapprovingly as he nodded away at the unintelligible noise overflowing out of his headphones for the rest of the bus to hear. Judging from his clothes, she mumbled to herself, “Probably listening to terrible music.” She made a mental note to download the new Deadmau5 album.
It’s strange how someone’s need not to be late somehow affects the outside world. The bus caught every red light imaginable, and once they arrived on the major road, they faced unexpected traffic.
She glanced at time on her phone every few seconds in hopes that this action would somehow slow down time. She had ten minutes to be at the appointment, but the bus was still about forty minutes away. A flash of adrenaline surged through her as she realized that she wasn’t going to make it. She had waited 2 months to make this appointment.
Being late was not acceptable and missing the appointment was not an option. She knew what she had to do. She didn’t like to do it because it was so mentally straining and made her feel so unnatural. She didn’t like doing it in front of people either, but she knew that sometimes it was ok. Those who noticed would come up with their own reasonable explanations for what they had witnessed.
She had been to the office once before to make the appointment. She remembered what it was like in the stairwell of the large grey building. The air was humid and warm from lack of air-conditioning. The light was dim and projected by bulbs that seemed never to go off. The complete silence was broken by the subtle buzzing that came from the lights. The sound was unnoticeable unless someone was listening for it. The steps were made of rough concrete and encountered few travelers. People don’t use stairs when an elevator is available.
She stood up from her cool seat, put her book bag on, and envisioned herself standing in the staircase. She imagined the feeling the railing would have on her warm skin and how the humidity would stick to her hair. In an instant, she was no longer on the bus, but in the staircase of the office building gripping the rail.
Sudden fatigue hit her like a truck. Her head was throbbing, and she heard a high pitched ringing. She sat on the closest step and pulled out a bottle of water from her bag. She drank from it as if she had just finished running for 20 minutes. She always felt tired and lightheaded after, but the headaches only happened after certain occasions. After taking a few deep breaths, she gathered herself, and got up. As quickly as her drained body allowed, she made her way to the 5th floor and opened the door.
One large office took up the entire floor. A middle aged receptionist with dull skin and thick glasses sat typing quickly and quietly behind a tall desk. “Hi. I have an appointment with Dr. Gomez.” The receptionist looked like she had too many other things going on that morning. “…And your name is?” Her headache and tardiness caused her impatience to get the best of her, and she quickly answered “Ali! Ali Miller!” The receptionist paid no mind to her outburst and stared blankly at her computer screen. After what seemed like an unnecessarily long time she responded, “Hmmm. Alicia Miller?” She seemed to be enjoying Ali’s unstable emotional state.
“Yes! Alicia! That’s me!” She snapped.
“You’re late. Take a seat… Alicia. We’ll call you when he’s ready.”
Ali didn’t respond. She just rolled her eyes and walked towards the leather couches a few steps away. She felt bitter towards the receptionist and her unfriendliness. She picked the biggest couch and lay across it as if she were testing a new bed. The receptionist noticed but said nothing. Ali felt a bit triumphant and started focusing on the more important matter at hand.
Dr. Gomez was a successful psychologist with several published works and came highly recommended on different internet forums on various methods of mental health therapy.
Her plan was to reveal to him that she could teleport, and she was curious to know why.
Illustration by: Shantala Robinson