Late and Astray

Updated on December 13, 2017

Late and Astray

We sped out of the restaurant as the icy air hit my skin as a familiar smokiness filled my nose. Such a smell was inevitable in the heart of Beijing with a notoriously dense population. My stomach protested the thought of moving after a big meal with my family. Cold and hard droplets fell onto my family and I as we swiftly ducked and weaved our way through the clumps of people to our bus. The distance between the station and us became increasingly smaller. I continued to run with my family, clutching my dad’s hand. We’re almost there. I looked back at the endless sea of people. Is it just me or are they multiplying?

“Dad how much longer do….” I cut myself short when I realized I was talking to myself. My heart raced, and I glanced around hoping they weren’t far. Stories of lost children I have heard about flooded through my head. I pushed the thoughts out, you’re going to be fine. I tried my best to remain still like I had been told to do if I were to get lost. With so much going on and so much to worry about, that seemed like a horrible idea. I need to find the bus. If I can find the bus I’ll find my family. So the goal was set: find the bus and reunite with my family.

The execution of my plan consisted of me attempting to look over the towering people around me. With my eyes level to their waists, this was a daunting task at the least. With such a blunt failure, I decided to try something else. “Does anyone know where the buses are?” I desperately screamed in Chinese against the overwhelming noise of voices and rain. Are these people deaf? I tried again, but this time I made sure to grab someone’s attention. A man finally saw me. “The bus stations are over there.” He pointed towards the direction I was facing. I thanked him quickly and ran as fast as I could. I’ll make it in time. They wouldn’t leave without me. A few minutes later, and I saw the hopeful lights of the station. I raced to the bus schedules and realized that I was dripping in water. I located my bus departure time. 9:30. Good I should still have time. I strolled over to the clock.

Hundreds of thoughts and scenarios spun in my head on overload. The hands of the clock ticked peacefully as I stood there in disbelief, staring at the 12 numbers. 9:33.

This can’t be real. Maybe the bus is still here. Maybe the clock is broken. Maybe they’re waiting for me. Denial overpowered my logic as I sprinted towards the station. In moments I arrived at the empty station. My eyes gazed at the empty rows of buses. 24 was written on a bus, but it was someone else’s bus leaving the station. Loud acceleration faded into a subtle rumbling as the bus sped away in the dank roads. I imagined the people riding on the bus. For them there were no worries, no panic, just a warm bus taking them home. A smoky wave of exhaust hit me as my legs lingered.


Don’t move.


Just wait a second.

Too many thoughts, too many questions, and not enough options. My logic and my emotions clashed. When one wins a fight, the other wins the next. A continuous battle ripped through me as solutions attempted to form. I took deep breathes as cold and sharp air filled my lungs and then flowed through my body. The words from my parents rung through my head. “If you get lost, stay where you are. We will come back for you.” The voice of my dad triggered something, reminding me of reality. Panic and fear no longer clouded my thoughts, and rationale trickled back into my head. A quick mental pros versus cons concluded it was better to stay where I was. I would just wait and hope my family would come back for me.

Walking to a nearby bench, I thought about my situation outside of my panicked state. How did I even get lost in the first place? How could they forget me when they got on the bus? Answers were out of my reach, so my only option was to sit down and wait. However, waiting now wasn’t like usual. Boredom wasn’t the enemy, but anxiety and fear. Minutes flew by as I sat there, thinking of what could happen. What if I get trapped here forever? What if they forget that I’m here? My impractical thoughts always ended in me dying or worse. It was clear that letting my mind wander was not in my best interest. I tried doing math problems but when that proved ineffective I simply told myself they were coming. I hope.

Suddenly, as if my family was listening to me, a sound rung through the air. The familiar rumbling was welcomed desperately. Could it really be the bus coming back for me? I thought of my family alighting, overwhelmed with relief. Blood rushed back into my legs when I rose, slowly jogging to the bus stop. The ambient noise changed into a soft engine grumbling. The grumbling turned into shouting, and before I knew it the roar of a bus engine surrounded me. I stood at the exit restlessly, bracing myself for when I saw my family. The preparation proved to be useless. I waited and waited for my family to greet me. One by one people stepped off and before long the bus was as empty as my hopes.

I went back to my bench with my head down. I stared blankly at the pebbles rolling around, feeling lower than before. Why did I think it was that easy? I’m doomed. I sat down with no plan, no hope, and no more energy. My eyes got dimmer as I laid on the hard beams of the bench. The last was commotion leaving my head as I heard something distant. Distant, yet oddly distinct. My back straightened in a second. What is that? Again I heard the sound, this time louder than before. A few more sounds later, and I could tell it was coming from in front. I got up and started walking towards the sounds. The further I walked the clearer it became and after a while, I could make out the sound. “Kevin!”

A few more moments and I could see a group of people running towards my direction. It was my family! I was filled with relief as all my worries drifted away. I had never been so happy to see them. I sprinted towards their direction, and before long I was face to face with my long lost family.


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