The coach stop
By Simon Barget
My mother is often late to pick me up from the coach stop but soon enough after worrying that she isn’t going to come, she turns up. I can always see by looking at the cars. I know when all the cars that come by are not hers. It is a disaster every time each car comes by and it is not her car. I don’t understand why it isn’t her car. My heart sinks. My stomach feels horrible and funny. She knows what time the coach arrives. It always arrives just before four. Even I know that. The feeling of seeing each car come by and not be her car is like a feeling of being sure it’s going to be her car this time and then seeing that it isn’t. I feel that the more I let cars go by, the more likely it is going to be hers. She has a dark grey golf and I even know the number plate. I have memorised it. It is ULJ 579X. I know the car from that but also from how it looks from the back. It juts out from the back. It is quite an aggressive-looking car. It looks like a box if that makes sense. Perhaps that’s because it’s a GTI. It has a red stripe going round the side. I can even maybe notice my Mum’s curly hair in the driver seat and the way it looks against the head-rests and I’ve also got a good memory of what the steering wheel looks like. It has VW written on it in small letters in the middle on the right hand-side. Usually my mum will turn up eventually and I will feel silly for thinking that she wasn’t going to come. Sometimes I wonder what I will do if she doesn’t. I know that the coach stops in Mill Hill Broadway but I don’t know how to get to my house from there. It is not close but it is also not that far. But I have never taken a bus on my own and I have never taken it to Mill Hill Broadway even with other people. I don’t think the buses go there from our house in Finchley. I am scared of the place that I have to stand and wait in at Mill Hill Broadway. It is under an arch and it is dark there even in afternoon time and I am scared of all the people that walk past who I don’t know and who are strangers that I will never know and who will never know or understand a little boy like me. I don’t know where to stand. I am scared to stand still but I’m probably even more scared of moving. I feel that if I move my Mummy might not know where to see me even if I move a tiny bit from the place I got off when the coach left. If I move, she will have another excuse to leave me. I don’t want to make it easy for her or any easier than it already is. The driver doesn’t wait to check that your Mummy or Daddy has picked you up, he just drives off. But I suppose I don’t notice this when my Mummy is there waiting. It is fine when she is there. He left what seems like a long time ago. I wish he hadn’t gone because maybe then I could ask him where my mother was. I know I would be very scared to talk to him but I think I would probably do it because there would be no other option. Or I could ask him if he could help me phone her in case she has forgotten about me. I don’t know why she would have forgotten about me but this time it has been a very long time and she still isn’t here. Sometimes she takes so long to come. When you don’t know where to stand under the arch each second seems like a very long time. I have a watch but I don’t really want to look at it. What if it is already ten past four? That would mean that she has definitely forgotten about me and then that would mean that I would have to stay here alone forever. Last time I looked at my watch it was only six minutes past. That means there could have been traffic. She has been late before but not as late as this. I am trying not to panic but the more I keep it inside the worse it feels. I don’t know what to do with myself and the way I feel. I know that people my age have gone into telephone boxes and reversed the charges but I don’t really understand what that means or how to do it and I am too scared to try in case I get it wrong. I think you have to speak to the operator and I don’t want to speak to anybody. I am scared to speak to adults. I’m scared what they will think of me and that they will be horrible. No one is coming up to me and asking me if I’m ok. I thought someone would maybe come up to me by now, but now I am trying to look as if I am not about to burst out crying because I am scared that if I do burst out crying they will see something is wrong and that something is wrong with me. I think that they might also not know where my mother is and I don’t want to hear that. I think they might say I did something wrong. I don’t think I did anything wrong. I am not always well-behaved but maybe I did do something wrong and I don’t want anyone else to know if I did. I would be ashamed. At least if my mother does turn up now, no one will know what I did. The feeling is in my chest now and the longer it goes on I don’t know what to do with it. It feels like the longer I am standing here the more I am being sucked into nowhere, that everything is falling inward into an unknown place and that I have to look invisible and pretend that everything is ok and that there is no reason why a little boy of eight is standing here on his own under the arch. I am desperately hoping that someone will come up to me and help me. Maybe they will tell me my mother is coming and that it will be ok. But until then I have to stand as if I am not really there at all, hoping that time will just pass and that it can all be over with. Of course the longer it goes on the more I expect my mother to have come but she hasn’t. But then also the longer it goes on the more I am worried that she is definitely not coming. There are so many cars driving by. Some even turn into underneath the arch where I am because where I am isn’t on the main road. I should have said that bit. Most cars don’t turn in and so when one does I get very excited even though I can see it isn’t ULJ 579X that it isn’t a grey golf and that it can’t possibly be my Mum. Maybe someone else has come for me but there isn’t anyone else who would. It is always my Mum. I want to try and make up my mind about what I am going to do now I know she isn’t coming. I want to be able to make a decision but I can’t move.
It is now twenty past four. I am really scared. Just as I look at my watch though I look up and I see the car. It is a miracle. I can see my mother looking worried and moving about in her seat. She is gesturing towards me to come and get in the car, for me to move from the spot I have been waiting at. I realise I don’t have to stay there now she has come. When I get in the car I don’t bother asking why she’s late. I think she might tell me about the thing I don’t know I did wrong and so why I deserved it, but still I am so so relieved that she came. Later on that evening I say to her that I don’t want her ever to be that late again but I know she is not really paying attention and that I cannot expect her never to be late. Then when I go to sleep that night I forget about it. Until thirty-eight years later as a grown-up the memory will come back to me; it will go part way to explaining why I am often so scared of being abandoned and alone.