While I was standing there, trying to find my street on the faded map of the city through the misty glass, a bus pulled up behind me with a rattle and a startling hiss. It stopped there and waited. At first, I didn’t turn around; I just kept staring as hard as I could at that white, wrinkled paper, trying to burn a hole through the frosted glass with my eyes. But then the driver opened the doors, and I was bathed in this warm light.

Suddenly, I couldn’t stand the city anymore; I couldn’t stand the fog or the neon lights, and I couldn’t stand the two-fifty for a cup of tea; I couldn’t stand the fake store windows with the mannequins and the empty gift boxes.

I turned around and looked up at the driver. He was just sitting there smiling, waiting, like he knew I was gonna get on. So I did, without even looking at where the bus was going. I brushed the fog off my jacket and out of my hair and stepped into the soft, warm light.

I took out my wallet to pay the driver, but all I had in it was the white paper flower. I showed the driver my empty wallet and he told me not to worry about it this time. I went halfway to the back of the bus and sat down, with my damp pea coat on and everything. I sat there holding the white paper flower with that warm feeling all inside my body.

When we crossed the bridge a minute ago, it looked like the fog might break up. I’m still not sure where I’m going, but it doesn’t really matter. Maybe I’ll go find that little girl and take her ice skating or something; I don’t really know. I just know that this white paper flower has six petals and a leaf, and that the little girl was right, nobody should have to feel lonely. And I don’t. I just feel warm, like I haven’t felt in a long time. The driver turned out the lights on the bus a while back, so I can’t really see the drawing of the flower. I can only feel the paper, soft from weeks in my wallet, but I don’t need the light to see the flower anymore. It’s inside me, keeping me warm.

Looking out the window now, I notice the fog really has lifted. I can see stars. For the first time since moving to the city, I can see stars between stars.

© Reed A Raymond 2011