I know that I’m getting on the wrong bus. Another kid says, “Hey, didn’t you move?” She also knows that I’m getting on the wrong bus. The teacher who is putting me on the bus does not know. I try to tell her.
“I don’t take this bus anymore,” I say. “I think my bus is over there.” I point at the correct bus. She looks at me and then looks down at her clipboard.
I’m just a disheveled kindergartener. I look like I’ve been lost in the wilderness, just aimlessly walking in a circle for days. If I were to find a witch’s gingerbread house as I walked, I would absolutely stand on my tiptoes to pull a gumdrop off of the roof and pop it into my mouth, 110 percent.
The clipboard is neat and orderly, with the papers clipped in a specific way. It lists the bus numbers in numerical order, and then the names of the kids on the buses in alphabetical order.
The clipboard wins the credibility test.
“No, this is the right bus,” the teacher says firmly.
I follow the line of kids onto the wrong bus. My worry increases as the bus rambles along until I arrive at my old bus stop and get out. The other kids are greeted by their parents, but nobody is there for me because my mother is probably at the right bus stop.
I don’t know what to do, so I walk along the county highway to my old babysitter’s house, which is on the way out of town. The scariest part is crossing the road by myself. I wait for what feels like hours for the cars to stop coming before finally bolting across the highway. One car honks at me.
My old babysitter is surprised to see me when she opens the door. I’m panting after my impromptu sprint, dust is sticking to my damp skin. She calls my parents and they come pick me up.
My mother asks why I got on the wrong bus. When I tell her, she tilts her head up slightly, like she’s beginning to nod. Her head doesn’t come back down, though, it pauses as she surveys the situation with elevated eyes. If you know my mother, and I definitely do, you know that her anger is gathering and will be released in a torrential rainfall when she is ready.
My mother calls the school the next day to give them shit, but the same teacher still puts me on the wrong bus like six more times.