The buses would run all day and all night where he came from, but not here. Not in this sleepy coastal town. He still wasn’t used to that, or much of anything else since the big move. He had become so used to city living, to a world that was open twenty-four hours a day, to a world where the lights never went out and people never stopped moving. Social situations, scenarios in which many people gathered and spoke to one another over drinks in rooms where smoke filled the air and everyone was trying to impress someone, were never his strong suit. Most of his time in that world, in the days of late night walks through neon littered streets, was spent alone amongst the crowd, and he liked it that way.
What was the old saying? Going from a big fish in small pond to a small fish in a big ocean is never easy on the ego. But when you grow up a small fish in a big ocean, a small fish with an even smaller ego, it’s the move to a small pond that can prove an even harsher blow to your sense of self and view of the world at large. This was not a place where he could get lost in the huddled masses, where he could blend with the crowd, no, this was a place where he stuck out like a sore thumb. A place where everyone seemed to know his name, even when he had never given it, and where his daily activities were twisted and made to fit the weekly gossip. It was all too much, at times, it was all overwhelming. He saw the irony of the situation, of feeling so suffocated by a population so small, of missing the sea of nameless faces of the big city as they were his own family.
Once a week, he made an attempt to get away from it all. It started by accident, one cold weekend evening, when he took the bus to a somewhat secluded beach and forgot the little fact that the buses stopped coming around at eleven. So, there he was, stranded on the beach with no way home and no knowledge of his surroundings other than the pacific ocean to his left. He panicked at first, wondered how he could be so stupid as to forget when the buses stopped running, wondered how he would find his way home. But then he started walking, and he walked down the coast with the stars shining above him and the moon reflecting off the water, and he noticed that, so long as he kept his sweatshirt zipped and his hood up, the cold didn’t bother him so much. He walked for hours that night, he walked until the darkness faded into dawn and until he started seeing fishing boats coming in from their nightly ventures and until he was certain he could walk no more.
He stepped off of the beach, his feet throbbing and his soul replenished, and noticed a neon sign flicker to life in the window of a nearby cafe. OPEN, the sign announced in red and blue glory, and so he stumbled in and sat at a corner booth.
“Coffee?” asked the waitress. He nodded. She returned a few moments later and filled a small ceramic cup with some damn good coffee. When he asked her where he was, she gave him a confused look before telling him. He explained what sort of evening he had, and she listened, and she gave him a piece of blueberry pie.
“On the house.” she said. She gave him three refills of coffee and directions to the nearest bus stop and he was on his way.
The bus ride home was a long one, that morning. He watched the sun pass above him while he moved from street to street, and from street to highway, and from highway to home. He felt the day pass from the chill of early morning to the warmth of afternoon and though he was tired, he did not sleep. The journey home was peaceful. Once he arrived at the familiar bus stop, the one two blocks from his apartment, the one at which he waited every morning for his daily ride to work, he smiled. And so every weekend since, he does this. He takes this bus up the coastline, as far as it will take him, and he begins his walk anew. Some nights he sleeps on the beach, some nights he doesn’t. Some nights he dares to venture off the sand and seek refuge in the unfamiliar settings, and some nights he walks quietly until dawn, until he sees his favorite cafe that serves his favorite coffee.
He no longer feels pressure during the week, nor does he feel overwhelmed by the small minds of the small coastal town around him, because he knows that once the weekend comes, once he puts on his favorite hooded sweatshirt and walks to the bus stop two blocks from his apartment, none of that will matter. He knows once that time comes, he’ll be free.