Here it comes again, the 12B. Every day right before my bus. Always empty. Never stops. Some specific route, like the driver knows who gets on and where. It just keeps moving. I’ve watched it go by every day for four years. Today, it stops.

The brakes don’t screech like other buses. The doors are quiet when they slide open and it waits, motionless, for someone. But nobody does anything. Nobody notices. I walk over and look inside. The driver’s a hundred years old with a big white beard and drooping skin.

“You getting on?” he asks.

I ask where he’s going.

He shrugs. “Everywhere.”

“1375 Falconer Road?”

“That’s where I’m headed.”

I look at my watch. Almost nine. Traffic’s heavy this morning, the nine’ll be late. Big meeting this morning, can’t afford to be late for that. I step up and show my bus pass. He points to a sign that reads EXACT FARE ONLY. I hold my pass higher, maybe he didn’t see it. He shakes his head. “Pass ain’t good for this route. Exact fare only.”

I check my pockets. “Sorry, I don’t have change. I’ll wait for the next bus, I guess.”

“Whatever you have is fine.”

There are two coins in my pocket, a couple of pennies. Didn’t know they were there. I put them in the fare box and he tears me off a transfer slip. Says he hopes I don’t use it right away and laughs at his own joke. He’s awkward when he talks, like someone who’s not used to it. Like he knows what to say, just not when to say it.

I sit near the front. Don’t want to miss my stop, not today. Not on this new route. The bus pulls out and rolls down the empty street. There are no cars on the roads outside, no people on the sidewalks. No noise, nothing. It’s so peaceful. I take a deep breath and hang on to it forever, but I don’t feel any better or any worse than I did before. I feel so relaxed.

“Have you been driving this bus for a while?” I ask. He nods, staring at the road. “Do you like it?”

It takes him a while to answer, and I wait, nowhere else to go. “I used to think ‘bout what I’d rather be doing, but I guess I jus’ got so used to this that I stopped thinkin’ ‘bout anything else.”

I look at my watch. “How long until we get there?”

“I’m not so good with time, these days,” he says, shaking his head.

“Are there any other stops before mine?”

“Don’t know ‘til we stop.”

I sit back in my seat and stare out the window, lost in a blur of unfamiliar buildings. I’m late. Won’t have time to set up for the meeting, but it doesn’t bother me. My mind wanders and I think about the strangest things for the longest time, until the bus finally stops.

“Here we are,” the driver says. “Is this your stop?”

I look around outside, trying to recognize something. Anything.

“No,” I tell him. “There’s nothing here.”

There really is nothing. Everywhere is completely blank. White, or not white, it’s hard to say. It’s empty. Where did everything go?

“Well then,” he says, knees creaking as he stands up. Somewhere under his heavy white beard, he smiles. “Must be mine!”

He reaches into his pocket and unfolds a piece of paper until it’s a transfer slip. He steps off the bus.

I call after him and ask who’s going to drive the bus.

He chooses his words carefully. Finally he says, “That depends how long you wait.”

Then the bus is empty. It hums all around me, waiting to come alive. I move to the driver’s seat. The world seems so much more narrow through the doors now, like the whole world and everything in it fits right in that gap. The doors close and I put the bus into gear and I drive away forever.

There’s a woman waiting on the sidewalk. First person I’ve seen so far. I pull up beside her, she gets on, puts her two coins in the fare box. She takes a transfer, then walks to the back. We don’t speak the same language, her and I.

Years later, there’s another man that gets on. He’s surprised to find the pennies in his pocket just like I was. He drops them in the fare box and walks to the back.

“Hold on,” I say, tearing off a slip. “You’ll want this.”

He thanks me but I don’t say anything. It’s just what I do. I’m the driver. I don’t remember how to do anything else.