memories of the school bus

OUR FIRST DRIVER was just a kid, maybe 20, clean cut type, brown hair, button-down shirt, can’t recall more about him, only that he let us do whatever the hell we wanted. The glorious anarchy of the school bus in 1986, acrobatics, dramatic dives, milk carton grenades, street rule of 67 percent obscenity. All other drivers on the road were targets of our middle fingers, especially that nice fellow who stood daily waiting for the bus on that one corner, and those skaters outside Station Pizza — they caught the wrath of lowered windows and “skaters suck!” That was our first bus driver. He was a good one. The older kids stood in the back, stood, never sat, and Marco, who was my best friend and idol, was back there with them. There was one younger kid, Curtis, who sat up front listening to Michael Jackson on his Walkman, trying to drown out the noise. Sometimes Marco’s father, Jock, would roll by the house and chat with us. He lived somewhere else. Marco knew all kinds of things. He explained to me that God was actually a disco godfather type and wore a white suit. I imagined this white-haired character with heavenly smoke sort of pouring out of the lapel of his jacket and the Bee Gees playing all around him. These were the kinds of deep philosophical conversations we had while standing in the back of the bus. Our second bus driver was named Lisa. She used the word “yous” for the plural of “you” or sometimes “yaz.” As in, “If yaz don’t knock it off, I’m taking you all to the principal’s office.” Her hair was permed, and she had an impeccable manicure. Sometimes she called our bluff and we were indeed escorted back for a lecture by Principal Bell. “I’m writing all of yaz up!” I do remember one session with Principal Bell, this kindly PBS morning television kind of guy, who reminded us that the “pal” in “principal” meant that he was our friend. Konstantinos, the Greek kid, was in there with me. I claimed total innocence, but Principal Bell introduced me to the term “accomplice,” which meant that if someone else committed a crime, but I helped, then I could get in trouble for that crime too. This is how we drill through the Nineties into the Eighties, mining the time, drilling deeper into prehistory. I do remember later on, toward the end of my tenure in the elementary school, waiting outside for the bus to take me and a classmate to some statewide band competition, pacing in the snow beneath a branch. Memories of buses, buried in time collecting dust, like those old plaques to doomed students on the walls of the school, so drab, brown, and sad, recounting some kid’s untimely drowning in the 1930s. He had died while trying to rescue a fellow student who had fallen through the ice on the mill pond. Because of this, he was a hero.

written 20 march 2019/revised 9 september 2021

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