I am fifteen and I take the city bus to school. I am the only one of my friends who lives on the West End of town, so my mornings are lonely, and I am accustomed to that. In fact, I embrace it, opting to take the earlier bus to avoid the 8:30 crowd. Morning after morning I stand in the blistering Saskatchewan cold, hands clasped firmly to my purple thermos, the taste of French vanilla cappuccino staining my tongue. My ear buds, the ones they give you for free when you buy an iPod, are only held in place by my toque. I listen to old OneRepublic songs ripped from YouTube. The quality is terrible. The bus schedule, the coffee, the sound, all of it. But I have never known anything else, so I am at ease.
The sky is a different colour at this time of day. In fact, I’m not convinced it’s a real colour at all but rather a majesty that can only be witnessed by the exhausted hopeful bunch who venture out of their homes at seven in the morning. It’s almost the Crayola pencil crayon that tries to pass for dark purple, but there is a rich royalty as though God Herself plucked the purest blue from a sea untouched by man and smeared it across the barren sky. The sun has yet to rise but the trees are nothing but shadows, so dark that they have been erased from the universe. Only the shell of where they once stood remains. More peculiar is the lack of wind. Wind, always raging in Saskatchewan, has yet to wake up from her slumber. It is just me, the sky, and the sharp chill that never rests.
The bus comes and I am warmer now.
I get to school around eight. Most kids hang out in Sion hall before class, but most kids don’t have the best locker location in the school along with their friends. Second floor, north corner, across from a staircase and a window. From this window, I can see the sunrise. There is no sunrise in Sion Hall.
Derrick will get to school before I do. He lives in South Hill, but also opts to take the early bus. He sits with his back to the adjacent wall; gangly legs sprawled out, drawing notice to his slightly-too-short jeans. His shaggy hair often covers his downcast gaze. Before, my presence would draw that gaze up. We would talk, and joke, and kill time until drama. It’s not like that anymore, and I think perhaps it’s not the sky or the chill that make mornings so cold, but him.
We sit in silence and I try to ignore the way my heart aches. I look at him and he looks at his phone. I divert my gaze to the window, where the sun paints her picture. I lose myself in the blue that fades to lilac that fades to rose that fades to fire. In times of stress my friends and I joke about throwing ourselves from the window, but I would never do that to the sky, and perhaps that’s the only thing that keeps me on the ground.
I am twenty and everything is both different and the same. Alberta air is forgiving enough that my hands can be ungloved as I clutch my to-go cup. The coffee is black. I made it with my Keurig – the first thing I bought when I moved out. The sun doesn’t rise in my neighbourhood and I don’t know how this can be, but every morning at the bus stop I watch the sun turn on like the rising of a dimmer switch. There isn’t light, and then there is. I miss the land of living skies, but there is no point in dwelling on what is different. I have adopted a new favourite view; the city lights at night. They are a manmade wonder, but they’ll do.
I am twenty and I am everything that tenth grade Kendall hoped I would become, except that I am a multitude, and good cannot exist without bad. I am a journalism student, a published writer, I am entering adulthood with a solid group of friends, and I have a part-time barista job that I happen to love. But I am weary. The people I love worry about me. And while it has been half a decade since my first heartbreak I have only recently uncovered the burden of breaking another, and it is so much easier to be sad than to make sad.
I try not to dwell on my shortcomings when I’m doing all I can to make good. I fill my head with music to battle it out with the worry. Everlong, but not the acoustic version. Motown, to remember better times (maybe I’ll tap my foot a bit). Not Imagine Dragons, at least not yet. Arkells; I share this love with new friends. These songs belong to me, and if I’m cold waiting for the bus, I don’t notice.
The ride leading up to my transfer is short and offers my favourite part of the day. The only people on the bus are the driver and I— the exhausted hopeful bunch who venture out of their homes at seven in the morning. We sit in silence. The bus lurches around the corner of Windermere road and there it is:
The sun rises over downtown Calgary. She actually rises. I say hello to my old friends: the blue that fades to lilac that fades to rose that fades to fire, but where there were once blacked-out trees is the skyline of a city that is bigger than my dreams, and in that darkness, there are lights.
Everything is both different and the same. I take the bus to school, and finally, I am warm.
Kendall Bistretzan is from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and resides in Calgary, Alberta, where she studies Journalism at Mount Royal University. She has previous publications with Windscript, Polar Expressions, Local Drop Magazine and Rebelle Society, and also writes for the Calgary Journal. You can find her on Instagram @kendallbistwrites.