Could-be Friendship

Creative nonfiction, Personal
Description: a pair of legs on a bus, one crossed over the other. The person is wearing a white skirt with thin black stripes. They wear red shoes with yellow shoelaces and have a cross-body purse the same color as the shoes.

I used today’s writing prompt as more of a creative journaling prompt—some pondering and reflection. I don’t have limitations for these prompts. They can range from nonfiction to speculative works. I hope you can be as relaxed with your expectations for your work too.

I used to ride the 50 bus into the city. The free student bus for the university I wasn’t a student at. I’d carry a backpack and pray the driver wouldn’t check IDs. Most days, I was lucky; I’d save a dollar seventy-five each way.

I’d seen them two times before- the person with the caution-tape-yellow shoelaces. I tried to hide that I was staring. Was I just envious of their style, or was it an irrelevant crush on a stranger I knew I’d never meet, so I could romanticize our fictional relationship in my daydreams? Both. It was both.

I fall in love with strangers weekly without a word between us. But this person, I had the overwhelming urge to make friends with. I formulated conversation starters in my head, but I didn’t speak. Society told me that would be “weird,” and anxiety begged me not to break the status quo. On the bus, you’re meant to sit straight ahead with earphones in and distract yourself until you reach your stop. Not disturb strangers with poorly formed conversations.

Why are there so many limitations to making friends as an adult? Why can’t we walk up to anyone and say, “Hey, I like your style. Wanna vibe?” Between stunted conversations, lack of time, and mental illness, it feels like a marathon not worth running.

I’ve survived toxic friendships that brought out the worst in me. When this picture was taken, I was fresh out of the friendship responsible for most of my repressed memories. So, in this person across from me, I saw possibility.

I imagined my favorite bands were humming through their headphones. We could jam together, or go to concerts, or badly dance. Or…

My expectations weren’t even that high. We didn’t need to do any of those things. They could sit with me. We didn’t need to speak. We could just chill. Vibe. Coexist.

On the 50 bus at 9 am, I imagined we had that.

I couldn’t say hello, but I could immortalize the idea of our could-be friendship in a photo. I tried to make my phone look natural in my hands as I angled it for the shot. I tapped the button. Then-

My phone made the camera sound loud enough to echo, and they looked up at me.