She got on the bus this morning smiling, and stood for the twenty minute ride downtown, balancing awkwardly with each jerk forward and back. People stared into space, slept precariously in too small seats, or had the world blocked out by white headphones and music loud enough to deafen. She watched people with dark circles under their eyes, funny twitches, and frowning apathy studiously avoid interaction with one another.
No one was smiling. The sun was shining, the river beside the road was sparkling, and everywhere outside the bus people jogged, bicycled, and walked with summer fervor.
She stopped smiling.
She got off the bus amid choking exhaust, swirling people, and noisy engines. She walked through a mall full of things to buy, past evocative ads for items she would never want, and never need. She tripped on a homeless man, stubbed her toe on a sawed off street sign post, and dodged, just in time, a delivery truck pulling up to a store front. She was vibrating from the chaos around her, her urge to scream and run almost overtaking her.
The saving grace was the smell of fresh carrots and berries from a market stand, and she stopped to bask in the freshness for a moment, forgetting the concrete and garbage surrounding her. She wanted to unzip her skin right then, and walk through the reality portal, straight into the field with tilled earth and neat rows of produce, begging to be picked.
Never more than this moment did she want to go back to where she came from. To come home each night to a front porch light with moths beating themselves helplessly against the searing heat of the exposed bulb. To hear crickets outside her window in the evening, and be able to see the stars when she looks up on a cloudless night. To open her door and feel fresh, clean air on her face, and walk with fingers touching grass and flowers and wonderful growing things no matter which way she faced.
She could imagine the nicker of horses at the gate in the morning, the cluck of chickens pecking pebbles in the heat, the bleating of sheep following one another to nowhere, the soft lowing of cattle as they head to the watering hole, tails swishing flies uselessly. The buzz of bees in the flowers and apple blossoms, and the chirping of small birds in the lofty maple trees.
But reality is where she has her foot placed now, firmly on a marble curb, awaiting the change of a light to walk across. The dream of her past, and hopeful future dissipating with the blare of a stereo, and the distant whine of a siren. Funnily enough, even with the juxtaposition of where she was to where she wanted to be, she was smiling again.
Because, In her hand, was a paper bag with fresh carrots and berries.