The rest of the crew could wait; I had to curb the creeping fear that I had made a terrible choice. People troubled me. Being with them made me uneasy. Not all people, of course, but in groups my instincts always told me that there was someone in the midst to mistrust, someone among them who’s out to get me. This peculiar entity next to me, for example, this floating grin could be up to something. All these people I didn’t know could be up to something. My throat began to tighten, and then a flash of assurance came. I knew who I was. It is in the clamor of war that I can still my thoughts – but anywhere else my thoughts bubble up from the recesses of my mind. They pop up here and there and echo through my head and keep me from focusing on anything. I can’t hold a civilian job because of it, or keep a woman or a friend of or a goal in mind. It’s the wall between me and a normal life.
I belonged on this bus because I didn’t belong anywhere else.
The back of the seat in front of me had the beginnings of a hole in it. I opened it wider with my finger, and the cheap vinyl flexed and sagged as if it had given up without a fight. Why was I always fidgeting with things like this? What impulse compelled a man of my skill and experience to become possessed with a child’s curiosity?
Why does a state of the art Natural Gas War Transport Bus have pleather seats? My finger was gouging the seat again. I have moments of possession I can’t control. There was a dead body once like this. Its skin was unreal like this. The other boys used a stick but I used my finger. I remember the teacher found us… There was something about this contradiction – the out of place cheap seats – that was reflected in this motley host. Why was someone with my experience on a conscript bus with so many young people. There was something shabby about it. It was the appearance of quality, but cheap inside. That was this whole operation. Just a trick to make money.
The thought passed, like anything close to the truth must.