a rainy morning and an empty bus. this means i can have my pick of seats. i chose a seat by a fan heater. the windows are all misted up, it’s like looking at the outside world through a sheet of polythene.
8.35am and the bus leaves Leven for Kirkcaldy, meandering through the grey wet town, heading out towards lighter and brighter skies.
the street lights splutter out one by one, seemingly, as we drive by… one by one by one.
the bus stops in Methil. a woman with both a severe haircut and a severe expression boards the bus and takes a seat opposite me. she fumbles with her woollen mittens and makes herself comfortable. she runs her hand over her suede-like head. she looks hard. she looks butch.
200 yards down the road, the bus stops again. a rotund woman, with a shock of greenish-grey hair and a pelican-like wattle boards the bus and sits next to the suede-headed lady, whose expression softens, beautifully, at the sight of her larger-than-life friend.
another 200 yards and the bus stops – again. a woman in her mid-late fifties, sporting an Alice band and cherry-coloured Crocs, boards the bus and sits at the front. she looks sad. i notice a cherry-coloured contusion on her right cheekbone. [fuck!] i can see that she’s tried to conceal it with a slap and dash of make-up. but i can see it. perhaps it’s a cry for help. i wonder what her story is…… [and i thought i was having a bad start to the day!]
another 200 yards and the bus stops. again. a young woman with a dark ponytail and canvas bag with monkeys printed on it sits in the seat in front of me. she puts her keys in her bag and takes out her mobile phone, which has a monkey sticker on the touch-screen. the phone looks dirty and battered. the screen is cracked and the rubber monkey sticker looks dirty and old, peeling at the edges. i watch as she flicks through her Facebook news thread. she is called ‘monkey XXXX girl’.
200 yards and we stop – again. this time, a nondescript woman – with grey hair and a grey anorak – boards the bus with her son. he looks at me and smiles an impish grin. it is here Monkey Girl disembarks. [she could have walked that 200 yards, no?]
i look outside, peering through the polythene window to see if it is still raining. it is. heavy. everyone looks wet and miserable. it would appear i am the only one with an umbrella.
the bus picks up speed and heads through East Wemyss. this is a town i know well. its castle ruins look grey and crumbling. the graveyard looks colder than Death itself – sodden and sunken – a flatbed of toppled tombstones. a fresh grave, the flowers already soggy and rotting. it figures…
the young boy sits, perched, on the edge of his seat and fidgets with his hair. he has his head rested on the headrest in front of him. he has his hood up and his fat little face is framed with the fur of his grey hooded anorak. he looks up at me, pale, smiling.
Alice, with the sad, blackened eye disembarks. i watch her as she shuffles along the street with a seeming reluctance in each step. i wonder what she is going home to….
the bus picks up speed and heads through Coaltown of Wemyss, another pretty little Fife town. the main strip is flanked left and right with pretty cottages – each with well-manicured gardens and pretty pastel painted shutters and doors, the paint peeling with time.
the bus stops and an elderly couple get on board. they sit at the front. he is dressed in brown, she in fuschia. both are bespectacled and both sport two hearing aids.
it is here that the nondescript woman and fur-lined boy disembark. the young boy turns to me and waves from the rain sodden pavement. i wave back. he looks sad… i wonder what his story is.
we tank along the road, despite the 40mph speed limit signage, slashing through the wet.
we stop in Dysart and two guys board the bus. one heads upstairs. [yes. it’s a double-decker bus]. the other sits behind me. he reeks of stale cigarettes and cabbage.
at the main drag, the bus stops again and a dozen wet and bedraggled people slowly board the bus. some of them don’t even appear to know where they need to go.
soon, we are mobile again and head up through the Gallatown area of Kirkcaldy. the bus is cold. the heater has switched off. it may be broken. nothing would surprise me. it’s been a long day and it’s not even 9am.
it is cold. i can see the vapour of my own breath……. or maybe it is the presence of ghosts. after all, the Gallatown was, historically, a site for public execution in days gone by.
the bus stops on Rosslyn Street, where a dozen more sodden passengers board. the aisle is sodden and slimy.
a green light on St Clair Street, swiftly followed by another stop. another stop, another dozen rain-soaked passengers, including a screaming child. great show of woollen hats though.
200 yards down the road and the bus stops. again. the suede-headed lady and the pelican disembark. a pretty young schoolgirl, with long dark wavy hair and bee-stung lips, boards the bus. she looks fraught and frail, gaunt. she too has a contusion on her right cheekbone which she immediately tried to hide from my acknowledging gaze. i smile to her and her eyes fill up with tears.
i avert my gaze and pretend to look out the window, my own eyes, welling up. it is utterly miserable.
misery, does indeed, love company…
(c) Kat McDonald 2016