The Boy and the Bus Seat
Why am I attracted to the annoying ones?
This guy shouldn’t be on my mind after all these years, so I can’t exactly piece together why the idea of him troubles me so much. Trouble is a great way to define his affect on me, but I never really addressed it as a problem. Kaleb’s never intentionally placed himself as a source of trouble in my life, aside from minor inconveniences and annoyances, yet for some reason, I really really liked him as a kid.
Was it that he played soccer? I was always attracted to boys that played soccer growing up. When I was young, I had never wanted a boy more, but I also had never received more reasons to avoid a boy more. Deep down, I think I let this boy define my entire middle school experience. At the time, Kaleb wasn’t interested in me and part of me sensed a certain repulsian he had towards me. I don't blame him, I wasn't the best-looking sixth grader.
In sixth grade, my best friend started liking Kaleb, and I got vain and jealous. Being the immature girl I was, I started making fun of her for liking him. I was jealous because she was able to express her feelings for him in a way that I was never comfortable doing. I don’t know if anyone saw how I felt but I sure-as-hell tried my best to avoid it. Avoiding my feelings was something I’d grown to be good at. Aside from Kaleb, the only other boy I found attractive was Miles, but he was the one boy in our grade who caught every girl's attention. If it couldn’t be Kaleb, it’d have to be Miles and to my surprise, eventually it was. In seventh grade, the most popular guy in school texted me out of the blue, and despite my status of being a sad loner at the time, this would become a 2-year long relationship. Truthfully mature for his age, Miles was better than I saw Kaleb could ever be. Miles was kind, caring and unapologetically affectionate with me. Though Kaleb had one thing on Miles, and that was his easy-access to conversations with me.
Yes, Kaleb talked to me, or more specifically, annoyed the fuck out of me whenever he could. And boys said that they annoyed me often because I got easily annoyed, but if I got easily annoyed, then that should’ve been more reason not to do it! By eighth grade, Kaleb was the only one to never learn this message. He continued to annoy me even after he stopped bothering the other girls, even after all the other boys stopped bothering me. But I liked Kaleb, and I had grown to like any form of affection he’d given me, even if it were teasing. In eighth grade, this evolved quickly.
Kaleb and I were placed on the same school bus. The idea of bussing to school with him made me nauseous with anxiety. Why? Because I was one year into my relationship with Miles, and Kaleb was his best friend. I tried my best to avoid my feelings for Kaleb, but the world appeared to have other plans for me. For the entire first week of eighth grade, Kaleb sat at the front of the bus alone and didn't speak to anyone. No one could blame him for it. He'd been placed on a new bus route for eighth grade, pulling him away from all the friends he’d made on his old bus route.
I could sympathise with him being unable to talk to anyone, I was the same. It was alienating, it forced you to settle for a quiet, boring seat at the front. But in eighth grade, I had formed a fun group of friends at the back of our bus, one that Kaleb was entirely unfamiliar with. This was the first time in my life where I had a group of friends and Kaleb didn’t. Normally, it was the other way around. I was the one sitting alone at my desk while Kaleb had fun with his friends.
Kaleb lived closer to the school than me, so I assumed he was okay with the short yet lonely ride, but the thought of him sitting alone up at the front was unsettling to me. Deep down, beneath the chambers of my heart, I still liked the boy. Despite my best wishes and commitment to Miles, I couldn’t fight the feeling that Kaleb was better suited for me. I felt like I could understand him in a way that I'd never experienced with anyone. I could tell Kaleb didn’t want me, so I accepted my position as his best friend’s girlfriend, and I wasn't complaining about it either. Though Kaleb was better-suited, Miles was a better guy overall. He knew how to treat me right. Still, seeing Kaleb alone at the front of the bus, in a position that contrasted his regular, all-superior, dominant attitude in school, I found myself liking him even more.
One day, it must’ve been the second week of school, there were no seats available at the front of the bus. Reluctant Kaleb made his way to the back, slowly stumbling as he examined the available seats.
An important thing to mention is that Kaleb strictly sat alone. If there was a seat entirely empty, his plan was to take the seat as soon as possible. He did the same in school. His friends would hurry to sit with him but I never saw him hurrying to sit with anyone. He was comfortable being alone, and I liked that because so was I.
But on this fateful day, every seat had at least one person in it, leaving him nowhere to sit. He had already made his way to the back of the bus when it began to move. Watching him grip onto the seats for balance while he glanced around nervously made my heart clench. Before I knew it, I was moving my backpack and staring back at him with the same nervousness.
He had always been mean to me, like he had been with other girls before. People used to say it was because he liked to ‘push girls in the sandbox’ as a kid. This was essentially his way of flirting, but back then, I just found it annoying and unnecessary. Despite the way he had treated me before, I knew how much I secretly cared about his well-being, no matter how many times I tried to deny it. When he saw me pick up my bag, Kaleb sighed and bit back a smile. I could see it in his eyes: the grudging relief, an involuntary appreciation, a hesitant joy. I was too nervous to act on it back then, too petty about his irritating behaviour towards me.
“Move yours legs”, he nudged as he shoved his bag beneath the seat. Already regretting my decision, I move my legs and slouch back into my seat. I’m not exaggerating when I say Kaleb refused to acknowledge me the entire ride to school. He sat reluctantly and tried to talk to the rest of the kids at the back of the bus. All the while, I sat barricaded between the boy of my dreams and a window. Trying to fight my growing, motion-sick headache, I stick my earbuds in and choose the window. I had spent many days staring out that window alone, it was nice to finally have someone on the other side of me.
I thought that’d be the end of it, so I was surprised when we got into the routine of it. Every day, Kaleb would come and wait at the seat for me to move my bag. It quickly became our new normal. Being the naive and insecure girl I was at the time, I thought he was using me. More than anything, I understood the struggle of finding a seat! It was the only thing I dreaded about riding the bus. He got to avoid it entirely by sitting next to me, and I reluctantly picked up my bag every time. Because the look in his eyes— albeit demanding at times— made me weak. It made me weak every time. I hoisted my bag and placed it on my lap every time, despite being with his best-friend, despite knowing he didn’t like me, despite all his annoying, hurtful comments. Despite it all, I couldn’t refuse the feeling in my chest when I saw him.
After a few days, he started to take his bag and hold it on his lap too. Another day would pass and suddenly he was turning his head to me, stealing short glances whenever he could. I can't recall how we started talking, but after a week, he was opening up to me about his soccer practices, funny things his friends said, any of the latest boy-gossip. I couldn't help but speak back, I cared so deeply about him. Overtime, we started opening up about our home lives, how we felt about people, how we felt about high school. It became the new normal for us to open up to eachother about our lives and desires, our teenage pains and passions. Between these leather seats, we understood eachother. We were able to laugh with eachother, talk about whatever crossed our minds. Because it was only in this seat that we were allowed to.
When we got to school, things were different. I was his best friend’s girlfriend, and rumours about Miles and I flooded the minds of everyone in school. Miles was the most popular guy in school, and although I found it daunting at times, I enjoyed how Miles treated me. He’d gone through my mood swings, he’d listened to all the things I opened up to him about, he’d met every flaw in me with kindness. That was irreplaceable, that was love to me.
The closer Kaleb and I got on the bus, the harsher he treated me at school. He either neglected to address me or threw hurtful comments at me. Normally, I’d shrug it off and roll my eyes. I’d gotten prettier after seventh grade and I was dating the most popular guy in school! On paper, comments like that weren’t supposed to get to me, and so I didn’t let them.
That was until he started bringing my relationship into his jokes. That was until he started making fun of me in front of Miles. These boys were a pair, they were! Two peas in a pod, and they were a handful together. Kaleb teased me as Miles laughed at Kaleb’s jokes, which incidentally made me feel like he was laughing at me. [All grown up now, I realise this wasn’t at all the case. I’m sure the students caught on and the teachers caught on earlier.]
But the little, shy, naive me didn’t understand what was so funny to Kaleb about me, especially since we started every morning talking our hearts out to each other. Especially since I spent every second loving it. The boy in the bus seat greatly contrasted the one at school. So, when rumours came out about Kaleb liking me, I was genuinely shocked.
In typical, middle-school fashion, the rumours spread quickly. For the most part, I was shielded from being addressed directly about it, but that didn't stop me from noticing the odd stares and whispers. It surely didn't stop Kaleb from sitting next to me on the bus, and despite my best efforts, it didn't stop my heart from racing every time I saw him.
Miles and I broke up at the end of May, and we were all heading to different high schools after June. Around then is when Kaleb and I stopped talking, and I let it stay that way. I didn't see the point in pursuing Kaleb anymore. We were headed to different schools and he had never told me how he felt. Plus, I always felt like Miles and Kaleb had a ‘bros before hoes’ attitude towards me and I could never let myself get in-between their friendship. [Back then, I used to loudly retort that I wasn’t a hoe, but that only made me sound like more of a hoe.]
That last month of school was essentially misery. The gossip and rumours about me made it difficult to have real friends and I wasn't very good at making friends either. My misery extended to the summer, to November all the way to February, when my dad let out his final breath.
It only worsened after that, until I found a love for writing. Now, I think back to these days with an unmet curiosity, trying to answer the unanswerable questions, trying to understand these lingering feelings I have for Kaleb. I’m heading into my second year of university now, living in another city and writing as much as my fingers can bear. Kaleb goes to a university that's less than an hour away from me, and I’d be lying if I said the thought of him never really crossed my mind.
Two nights ago, I had a dream about Kaleb. It was a good dream, one that was unexpected and uncalled for, but it reminded me of all our crazy, twisted, euphoric moments together. I always regarded Kaleb as the only person who could satiate my weird, romantic desires. He was perfect for them, inside and out. His personality was what drew me most to him, it was irresistible. His behaviour was tempting, triggering my every desire for more.
It felt like there was all this build-up for nothing, and I’m sure that’s how you feel reading about him now. It’s how I feel too, and I'd be okay with that if it weren't for that dream two nights ago. Now…