“Waiting Cold” addresses how ideologies affect the way we live our lives. How do ideals sometimes block what is observable? How do others try to understand the world, and how does that differ from our own attempts? If we hold common ground regardless of the individual principles held, would we be able to recognize it?
Trickling down the plastic pane of the bus stop wall, leaving a tail and a trail through the grime collected, a raindrop slowly shakes and shivers down to the ground. The cold air making it chilled.
A plunk from above. I glance up, a different drop lopping down from the bare-naked tree, wet, and hitting the roof, clear, the same plastic as the walls.
It, or maybe another drop, a grey line splashing into a puddle, rippling where it’s siblings along, circles forming and waves eddying. Dark muddy water and bits of rocks and sand moving with the moving winter air.
Breathing a sigh, I flip my watch from under my thick sleeve. It’s still some time until my bus arrives. Leaden clouds mixed in the early evening leave a dismal world to observe. Cold hands as wind push the skies and the rain, thankfully not harsh, and trails a sharp nail along the cheeks of people.
Needless to say, it’s not the best weather. And with the bus in mind, the weather won’t help for a quick arrival; a delay inevitable.
It’s much past a time when I’d like to be home. I’m as certain as it’s raining that most of the other people spread out on the three benches sheltered have the same sentiment. Some look to their laps, entertainment in hand. Others stare, as I do, eyes following the slow tumble of rain. A muted world hushed but blind to the sound of the rain spread out.
A man walks along the sidewalk, in the rain, before ducking down into the cover of the plastic roof. A grey coat and a black baseball hat wet on top his head and the brim shiny with moisture are his attire.
He has pale skin and an older demeanor, older than mine. He looks around to find a spot to rest and sit. There’s a few, and he spots one near me. Taking a seat next to me, leaving space between, he sighs and rubs his bare hands together, warming them with movement.
“Mighty mean one, eh?” he asks genially to me and nods to the rain and the clouds.
“A little too mean,” I note in an equal manner.
“Not your type of weather?” he asks, leaning back in his seat and stowing his hands in the pocket of his damp coat.
“Not quite,” I note. “I much prefer a day with maybe clouds but no cold or the rain.”
“Hm,” says the man, nodding, “can’t help but agree.”
“Are you a student, at the school,” asks the man, motioning in the direction of my school, topic understood.
“I am, in my second year,” I note.
“What do you study?” he asks, curious, grey eyes interested.
“Economics. And political science. Nowadays everyone talks about politics,” I say.
“I can agree. It’s what everything is linked back to these days,” he says and nods. “But no philosophy? It’d match with political science.”
“Haven’t the time. And my philosophy seems simple anyway. Earn money and eat big meals.”
“Simple, I’ll give you that,” he replies.
Behind him, a man with dark skin seems to cough to cover a laugh. The man in the grey coat hears it and turns to look.
“Did you hear that too?” he asks.
“I did,” says the dark skin man, “I heard it, wish I didn’t.”
“Not quite suit you?” I ask, not condescending.
“Sorry, it doesn’t. I prefer a much more elevated idea to life,” he replies. No smile apparent.
“What’s your philosophy to life?” asks the man in the grey coat.
“I’d say it’d be to do what I’ve been taught to do. Work hard, support my family. Head to church and raise kids strong and sturdy,” he replies, his gruff voice matching his looks strangely.
“Did your parents teach you that?”
“Sure did. And they got it from their parents, and them from theirs, and so on. Hasn’t changed one bit,” he notes, nodding his head once after talking almost as if to assure us of the paucity of impermanence in his lineage.
“Seems a little rigid, doesn’t it?” asks the grey-coat man.
“It’s called being diligent. Maybe you could tell it to the youngster there,” replies the man, motioning to me.
“I have my own duties, and I’m diligent to those,” I say, addressing the man.
“I know. Eating nicely and earning money for yourself. I heard, you seem to forget, even with that background of education you got,” says that man, gruffly.
“And you have your own duties, which you seem to do for yourself,” I say.
“Not for myself. I do it for my family. I work and support them, making their lives better.”
“Doesn’t that mean you do it for yourself? It is your value,” I point out.
“It’s not for me, it’s for somebody else. I’ve said that already.”
“But the value is yours, yes?”
“Sure is. I’ve said that.”
“And you’re fulfilling it, for somebody else?”
“I’m fulfilling my value for myself.”
“By helping others?” asks the grey-coat man, slightly amused.
“It’s my value to help others,” says the gruff man, becoming much too red in the face to be normal.
“Then you fulfill it for others?”
“No. I’ve been taught to fulfill my values. I fulfill them. Not anybody else,” says the man.
“Then it’s really for yourself that you’re doing that, even if you are helping other people,” I say simply. But not triumphantly.
“I’m certain that what I’m doing for myself will benefit others, as it is,” huffs the gruff man.
“As I am certain that what I do helps others as well,” I reply.
“Hmm, maybe,” says the man, raising his upper lip. I ignore the gesture.
A hissing along the road followed by twin beams of light leads a bus in front of us. Not my ride, but three of the waiters rise and step into the rain to board. The gruff one among them.
He doesn’t turn to acknowledge us, and boards. Once inside I see him trail eyes scrunched at me before he disappears with the bus in the rain.
“I wouldn’t put it past you to say he was a gentleman,” says the grey-coat man, still here.
“I’d say so too,” I reply.
“Though, I think he may have been altruistic in his mind,” he does note.
“I’d have said he wasn’t doing it as best as he could,” I say.
“I’d say so as well,” says a woman, next to me, on the other side of the grey-coat man.
Red hair in waves and a sharp nose. Pale like the grey-coat man.
“I was just being a little gentle in handling his image,” I say honestly.
“Honesty isn’t always accommodated,” notes the woman with a nod.
“Though it’s always recommended,” says the grey-coat man.
“My parents were like that gentleman, maybe not so much, and it’s terrible to deal with them,” she says.
“No, same attitude,” she clarifies.
“Rigid?” asks the grey-coat man.
“Quite,” replies the lady.
She shifts in her seat, her coffee-color coat and the argyle-designed scarf adjusted by her black-gloved hand, shifting and tucking it under her chin.
“They aren’t the most willing to accommodate other types of thinking, or philosophy, that topic you were speaking of there,” says the lady, pointing to the air where the earlier conversation she heard was.
“Can’t be helped. Maybe it’s just so much a part of them,” I say, shrugging.
“Really? I’d say you could change what you think. I’ve certainly changed,” says the lady with surprise, her eyebrows rising.
“Did you now?” I reply, in my own surprise.
“I certainly did,” she replies with a reminiscent smile, a curve just barely there, “I was just as inflexible. Maybe more, supposedly less, and I left that hard shell.”
“Funny you say it as a hard shell,” says the grey-coat man.
“It’s fitting though. A shell. It’s safe to be stuck in one little world, protected. I was certainly protected, and I loved the dark hollow I was in, even if that may have been imprisoning,” she says.
“What made you leave?” I ask curiously.
“I suppose it just became boring. I wanted more than just being safe. What purpose is there in life being safe away from it?”
“Highly philosophical yourself!” says the grey-coat with man, joined by us two.
“But, still, my point is that some people maybe are just like that. Maybe their personality just makes them think as they do. Perhaps identity defines their perspective on life,” says the lady.
“I’d say so for the gentleman, questionable,” says the grey-coat man.
“Hmm, I suppose,” I add.
“But even if that were true, it does make you wonder if he was just a match to that kind of thinking, or maybe just that he made himself into that,” says the grey-coat man.
“Yes, I suppose it does,” nods the lady.
“Identity could make his creed, I suppose,” I note.
Another hiss from the road, and another bus arrives, the wet road leaving waves and the gutter clogged with lingering leaves from the fall.
“Well,” says the lady, “have a nice evening you two.”
“I’m leaving as well,” says the grey-coat, standing from his spot on the bench.
“Well, have a nice evening to you, and work hard in school,” says the lady, giving a nod and a generous smile to me.
“Why, thank you. Have a nice evening to you,” I say to her. “And you as well,” I say as I look at the grey-coat man.
“Thank you. You as well,” says the grey-coat man with a smile.
The two of them pass through the shower to board, and the bus shifts as they do. The metal box adjusting itself on its feet, before leaving from the bus stop, the lights disappearing into the turning evening.
Prussian-blue clouds above swirl in the night, the way it appears almost as if watercolor paint mixed in a jar of water. The bus leaving has dropped me into the darkness of the evening, my eyes adjusted to the dark world and the surrounding scene left in the strange silence, once again.
“I suppose identity could dictate ideals,” comes a voice from my right, making me turn.
I can hardly see through the evening, the nearest streetlamp some distance away. Only the shadow and the murky shape hardly visible.
“I sense that you don’t quite endorse that it does,” I say.
“No, I think it’s maybe a variant of that idea,” says the voice.
It’s almost as cold as tonight, but not beckoning of my fear, rather just simply there, indifferent as the world.
“How so?” I ask, my curiosity open-handed.
“I think, really, that principles and any politics are just what is accumulated,” says the voice.
I can maybe say it’s a young lad, maybe my age, though the glass-like solidness of the night could make him seemingly older than I assume.
“Accumulative, as in ideology is created through your life?”
“Almost. But more, really, that principles are just the lens that are looked through,” a reply follows.
“Ah, a different view,” I say fittingly.
“Yes,” says the voice with a chuckle, “it’s what you use to view the world. It’s like glass, a looking glass. It’s not a looking glass for everyone. It could be air, the glasses on your nose, or those contacts some people have these days. The more principles you have, the more things you have to look through the world with. The less, the less you have on the lens you see the world through.”
“You almost sound as if you don’t quite sit well with having principals,” I say.
“No, no,” he says. I make out the shadow of his hand raised. “I don’t say that principals are wrong to have. It’s not wrong to not have any. It’s simply being able to know that what you do or don’t have is what’s important.”
“To know of your ideals?”
“Their nature, more specifically,” says him, lowering his hand. “Knowing what you look through the world with helps you know what you do and don’t see. To know what clouds are in your sight.
“If you know what murks your sight, you’ll know what you’ll not view. And if you know that, you can be just like this rain, this weather,” says the voice, raising his hand again, a shadow.
“Like this rain? Cold?”
“Not just cold. But impartial. This rain, it comes from the sky, but it’s cool. It’s calm. You can be calm and still look through your glass. Or the glass of your parents. Through the glass with no ideals. Ones with the ideals as a tint to the crystal, or ones that are clear as the sky. But being able to be calm, to know what is lacking or not, what is apparent, you’ll know what you might miss.
“And if you know of the looking-glass, yours, or others, you’ll be aware that you share something with everyone else; that you look through something to view life.”
“What will you know?” I ask.
“You’ll know that you share something. That everyone is looking, peering, squinting at the world. Finding sense in the chaos of life. Everyone is trying to live. It’s that fact that you’ll know.
“And maybe that’ll remind you enough that you can live, in harmony, with others, perhaps.”
He lowers his hand, dark still. I would believe now that maybe he’s the only one here with me. I can see no other shadow beside his and the ones of my own knees.
“It’s a strange way of thinking, I suppose,” I say honestly.
“I know it is. But it’s one I’ve come to have after a long time,” replies him, laughing, still a voice as it was.
“Do you think that because that is your looking-glass?” I ask.
“I believe it because I like to think that everyone can be aware of their own principles and perspective. And so, they can be aware that they need to step back every now and then from their keyhole, or the window they use, to refresh their eyes.
“And to remember to be calm, as this rain, and remember that they’re not the only one looking. Everyone is looking and thinking to understand the world,” he finishes.
A pair of lights, lower than that of the bus, leads a car to the bus stop. The light hits the face, part of it, of him, but I only saw an outline of a small face. Old, young. I don’t know. But the car stops in front of us, and then he rises, steps out into the rain for a minute, his black coat I see, and then slides into the car.
Before leaving, he opens the window, waving his hand, and I see a waning smile glisten from the dark interior.
“Have a pleasant evening.”
And then the car pulls away, dark black waves of water and the lamplights dancing in the reflections.
“Everyone is looking and thinking, eh? It seems contrary sometimes,” I say to the lonely air.
I sit and contemplate though, his words. I suppose that ideas could be what we see the world through. It’d make sense, as it does dictate how we see the world, how we live our lives. And those can change, the lady a fine example.
“The rain is supposed to remind me of shared humanity?” I ask to the air again, looking at the tumbling sheets.
I stare for a while, the rain just going along with its short life, a descent from heaven to earth, unconcerned but possibly aware of myself.
Impartial, but aware.
I suppose it’s a way of living and thinking.
I lean back in my seat, on the bench, under the plastic roof in the rain under the rain in the night. The bus, maybe somewhere close, or not.
I sit, waiting, cool in my mind, and the rain copies me.
Alex Shu is currently a student who has not yet accumulated any significant achievements, but he has a Wattpad account where he posts stories. He primarily writes in English, though his Japanese heritage and ability to speak Arabic occasionally affects his writing. Alex likes waffles and is not the most average boy out there. It usually shows up in his writing. His aspirations in life are to find happiness and to not let the scary thoughts in his head control him.