Could Get Hit By a Bus by Megan Anning
It’s not nice when people get hit by buses. I haven’t been hit by one, but I know somebody who did.
It’s not nice when people casually say in the course of whatever they’re saying that it’s possible to get hit by a bus: ‘You could get hit by a bus.’ People say this when they are going to do something harmful to themselves like smoke a cigarette, or bungee jump, or hang glide, or skull a bottle of whiskey, the inference being that it’s okay to do harmful things because you never know when death will come. It could come right now. Regardless of when it does come, the ‘you could get hit by a bus’ idiom gives a good excuse to have a cigarette or three.
It’s not nice when buses drive past. They leave their stinking breath behind. They growl like weird road dogs, like logs with big black wheels. They leave dark fog which pains me, and it smells like death. I hate buses if you must know, especially yellow ones. They have eyes, huge, square, soulless eyes which peer indifferently at all who may be scurrying past on the road.
It’s not nice when people don’t understand how awful it is to use the expression, ‘you could get hit by a bus.’ When I hear it, one of my eyes twitches and my mouth falls slack like I’ve been punched in the chest. If I could talk at those times, all I might say is ‘you know that really happens’ or ‘don’t’, or ‘nooooooooo,’ or ‘it hurts.’ It’s just that if someone gets hit by a bus, there might be someone else who is in bed sleeping as someone else is scampering off to work, as someone else is being crushed beneath the back wheels of an enormous death machine, otherwise known as a bus. Innocuous to most.
I was in the art gallery once, standing in front of a huge painting of a bus by Jeffery Smart, the king of bus paintings. The painting, titled ‘The Traveler’, features two perfectly rendered buses. They scared me, and this was even before I hated buses, before I was sleeping on that Tuesday morning while my lover was being crushed beneath the wheels of a bus. Standing, looking at the sheen of Smart’s buses, something was ominous. The man in the painting is presumably ‘the traveler’. He is a business man judging by the long grey coat and briefcase, and by the way he is standing near the open door of a yellow bus, I think he must have just gotten off the thing. It sounds innocent enough, but when I remember looking at the second bus, long and mysterious and shadowy, and parked far too close to the first one, with the man’s image reflecting off its sleek side, something sinister settles over me. Who is the driver of that bus? Where is it going? I imagine the Grim Reaper hunched over, clutching the wheel with its boney fingers. Is life just a series of bus journeys? The business man is half smiling, half happy half sad, accepting of his fate perhaps? He has no other choice. Jeffery Smart’s ouvre includes paintings titled ‘Bus Station’, ‘Bus Terminus’ and ‘The Waiting Bus.’ The man was clearly obsessed and I know why: buses are bad, frightening and uncanny in a mechanical, end-of-the-world, lookout-the-buses-are-coming kind of way. I don’t subscribe to the word evil, but I might consider using it to describe a bus.
It’s not nice to get a phone call when you’re sleeping, and be woken up by it. It’s not nice to get a phone call from a hospital lady, to hear her voice on the other end talking with words that are as tight as the skin of a balloon, words that are wrapped around air that must not be released for fear a balloon might pop. Balloon skin is tense. Taut would be another good word to describe balloon skin.
It’s weird how when I started hating buses, I began counting how many times people would say that otherwise benign expression: ‘You could get hit by a bus.’ It’s really common. Too common. Like coke. And buses. It’s not nice to use the expression ‘you could get hit by a bus.’ How would people like it if I started going around saying things like: ‘You could get crushed by a building,’ ‘could get murdered in the street,’ ‘could fall down a cliff,’ ‘could get drugged and raped and then murdered,’ ‘could get exploded by a bomb,’ ‘could slip on a banana skin and crack your head open,’ ‘could choke on a pretzel,’ ‘could have a stroke,’ ‘could get bitten by a deadly spider,’ ‘could get septicaemia,’ ‘could get eaten by a shark.’ I think you get my gist. Nobody hardly ever says ‘you could die peacefully in your sleep.’
But when people say ‘you could get hit by a bus,’ what they’re saying is: ‘Life is short so jump off a cliff with a parachute.’ ‘You only live once so swim with sharks.’ ‘You have to die of something so try eating tarantulas.’ ‘Variety is the spice of life so travel to exotic locations and do some high risk adventuring involving mind expanding substances.’ ‘Why not become a shaman?’ ‘Live in a Zen temple in Japan in silence for a few years!’ ‘Follow your passions.’ ‘Don’t give a damn about who people say you are or who they want you to be and how.’ ‘It’s okay to just keep living and not think about it too much.’ Maybe that’s the meaning behind Smart’s shiny buses. Maybe the man with the briefcase is trying to say it’s okay to just keep rolling like a traveler caught between two buses.
Megan Anning is an Australian writer who is working on her first novel, Last Artist, which is a story about art, love and tragedy, set in the bohemian enclave of West End, Brisbane. Her stories and poetry have appeared in Text Journal, The West End Magazine and October Hill Magazine. She has a Master of Professional Practice (Creative Writing) from the University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland.