Gasping for breath, he ran as fast as he could, but the bus had already left.
“Is that… Is that… Is that the bus to Salatiga?” he asked the old man waving to the bus on the sidewalk while catching for breath.
The old man’s speech was unintelligible, but he figured he said something like, “Yes. My god, you just missed it!” He felt mocked at first, but then he politely asked the old man again, “So that was the bus to Salatiga? Do I wait for the next one here?”
Again, the old man responded in unintelligible way that he barely figured out what was being said. At the same time, he finally got a good look at the old man and realised that the man was barefoot, and far from looking neat and sensible. He was holding a stick that was used earlier to wave at the bus that had already left.
Only then that he finally wondered whether the old man was in his right mind, and now he worries whether he just missed his luck by talking to the old man. No one else was around.
Deciding that the man might not be sane, he decided to ignore him as best as he could, but still trying to smile politely whenever the man seemed to talk to him. Since he barely could figure out the words said, he simply nodded and smiled to avoid being rude. The old man was pointing across the street and, when the road was empty, crossed the street. He breath a sigh of relief, thinking that he was finally free from the old man. At the same time, he noticed a group of youngster approaching his location as well, and looking at the way they dressed, he figured that they were going to wait for the bus just as well. He thought that his luck finally arrived and decided to ask them instead.
“Hi, I’m sorry, but I’m new here. I was wondering whether this is where I should wait for the bus to Salatiga.”
The looked at him judgingly, but then kindly pointed to the opposite directions of the street, and said, “Oh no, this is the opposite direction. You should cross the street and headed that way–” the guy pointed to the right, “and walked along the street until you reached the traffic light there. Then you could wait for the bus to Salatiga there.”
“Great. Thank you so much!” His heart sank upon hearing that, realising that the old man earlier was probably crossing the street to show him the way. Even though he understood the old man’s intention, he partly worried about having to deal with the old man again, and another part of him felt guilty for feeling that way.
He crossed right away when he saw that the road was safe enough for him to cross. And he was right, the old man was waiting for him. And even though his speech was unintelligible as usual, judging from his face expression and intonation, the old man was probably laughing at him, scolding him–though half-jokingly–because he wouldn’t listen to the old man.
He didn’t want to be rude, so he said again, “I’m sorry! I’m really sorry! I didn’t know the way earlier! I’m really sorry! Is it that way?” he asked.
The old man said something again, but he didn’t understand what is being said, so he smiled politely again. He silently cursed his fate when he realised the old man was walking him.
“Hey, I’m asking you!” He stunned when he catch the old man’s hardly-intelligible-words.
“I’m sorry! I was not listening! What did you ask, sir?” he asked again.
The old man repeated his question and he finally figured–partially guessed–that the old man was asking whether he was a student.
“Oh no! I’m working already. I’m going to Salatiga to visit my friends. I was studying there, though,” he answered, trying to be as polite as he could.
He suddenly felt grateful of his dark skin, thinking that no one would realise how embarrassed he felt when he realised people on the street was looking at him and the old man, and he thought they must felt sorry for him for bumping into the old man, or probably wondering why the hell he would stick to the old man. The answer was, of course, because he couldn’t, or that he didn’t dare, but he tried not to think about it and focused only to walk to his destination. But at the same time, he felt more and more of the people’s gaze at him from inside their cars as he was approaching the traffic light.
“Oy! You, there! Where are you going?” He heard another man’s shout. He looked ahead and saw a bus “conductor,” who was trying to fill the bus with as many people as possible.
“I’m headed to Salatiga! Is that where the bus is going?” he answered, wishing so bad that would be the bus he’s going to take.
“Yes it is! Hop in!” the man answered. An answer he was gladly, and thankfully, waiting for.
Still trying to be polite, he turned to the old man, “That’s my bus, sir. Thank you so much for walking me. I could go there myself from here. Thank you so much!” He was trying to rush his farewell, hoping the man would simply nod and smile, but he did more than that.
“Do you have any money for the bus already?” he asked.
This time, he felt really touched by the old man’s question, although he very much doubt that the old man has any money.
“Yes! Yes, I do! Don’t worry about me! Again, thank you so much!”
Although he still felt embarrassed and ashamed of being seen with the old man, at that moment, he couldn’t help but feeling overwhelmed with wanting to take the old man with him, and help him in any way possible–which is, at that time, impossible. He felt like he want to hug the old man as a gratitude, and wished the old man the best of luck. But he realised at the same time that he would feel better if he could just get away from the old man. He realised that he also felt disgusted with himself and the way he felt. But what’s most urgent is that he got a bus to catch.
So he ran into the bus, and quickly settled himself in one of the empty seats inside. He felt the old man was following him and he wondered whether the old man was trying to make sure that he was okay. He wondered as well, and worried, too, if they’d let the old man inside. What would he do, then? People would laugh, that’s for sure.
So he took a window seat, and he tried to look down into the street.
He saw the old man nearby, although–thankfully–he was not looking or searching for him. But he saw the old man tried to talk with a lot of people around, and was being ignored.
Some sellers went inside and outside, trying to sell the magazines, or toys, or street snacks they have. Then one of them passed him by, and he heard the seller chuckling, making a comment about the old man. He felt grateful when one of the passengers asked the seller what happened.
“Oh, it’s the old guy. I think he was trying to get in, but of course, no one would let him. He’s not in his right mind, you see,” the man still chuckling, and now he’s shaking his head in disbelief.
He realised he felt a slight of anger towards the seller, and towards everybody else. Can’t they see that he’s only trying to help? For heaven’s sake, he helped him before, guiding him and making sure he reached the right bus! In his imagination, he saw himself went out of the bus and defended the old man. But of course, he never had that much courage. So now, his anger is mixed with a bit of sadness, and guilt, and disgust. And when the bus finally started its way, he tried to relax. Perhaps by the time he arrived in Salatiga, he’d forget about the old man already. But instead, he found himself pondering and wondering about the old man. He wondered how he turned that way, and whether the man was really insane, or whether he stupidly thought the old man was, and whether he had someone who would take care of him, whether he had any family left and how they had treated him. He wondered whether he would see the old man again one day.