Same Book, Same Bus

The bus door opens I walk inside. The driver has a look of antipathy and seems unengaged. I sit myself down on one of the seats and, remarkably, as I turn around, every single passenger is reading a book. Usually, on a bus, I’ll only see one or two readers but, no, this time everybody unanimously takes part in this activity on the way home, or on the way to their friend’s house, or on the way to their mother’s.

A bald man, who has a bulky appearance, reads intently. He is on page 52, fairly early on. This man seldom reads, but this particular book became so compelling to him upon starting it
that he could not put it down, taking it on every destination.
    Whenever he does read books, he likes to read something that will exhilarate him to the point where he loses sense of his immediate surroundings; in this case he is on a bus, which he’d rather forget about to slowly immerse himself in the characterisations and the narrative.
    He is still in the narrative exposition, completely riveted by it. He is currently reading:

Ikimuro didn’t like the way this was all turning out. She needed to escape this town stranded in the middle of nowhere, but the problem was that no-one would accompany her. Yet she didn’t know what lay beneath beyond these provinces; what on earth could be there? This intrigued her.
    Her love affair with Kazuizo was, she had realised, completely fruitless. Their encounters by the beach had lost their initial zeal and she felt like breaking all ties with him. She had known him since childhood and to have a relationship with him now seemed completely absurd. Ikimuro craved to meet new people from new places.

Cheap romance, perhaps? The bald chubby man could not care less; this is one of the few possible means of escapement, so he will read it.
Two seats behind, a teenage girl reads a book, its cover hard to distinguish as she presses it against her knee, concealing its jacketing and spine. She has brown hair, green eyes squints intensely.
    Like the bald man two seats ahead, she is not a particularly avid reader, but the long journey home from college started to become strenuous and, to pass the time doing something, she acquired the first book she laid her hands on in the foremost book retailer.
    To make those long tedious hours on the bus go away she has just started this book. She is on page 5, which says:
The date was set for eleven. Kazuizo would be there, eagerly awaiting her arrival. Ikimuro perched herself on her bed, coming to terms with the complete abjectness in her life. She really did not want to meet Kazuizo, feeling obligated to turn up, calling her every day, pressuring her to have mutual feelings.
    Against her own wishes, she walked to the community park, where Kazuizo would be waiting for her on a bench.
    And there he was. Kazuizo’s physical appearance revolted her: weak musculature, a protracted face riddled with pimples and thick glasses magnifying protruding eyes... Upon seeing her, he had a look of supreme satisfaction, eager to talk, interact and make love. “Hello, Ikimuro,” he said with a cool effeminate voice.
    The park laid a few metres away from the beach, where he’d usually attempt to caress her thighs and breasts with insatiable relish.
She can certainly relate to the anxieties this Japanese girl experiences. This novel, although set in a distant foreign land, is rooted in universal human relationships. The girl can certainly engage with the narrative and it occupies her mind with during the overlong period between lectures and the arrival to her home.
    This girl has had a few relationships with the opposite sex, almost all of which led to unsatisfactory terminations. She hasn’t reviled her lovers like this Japanese character, nonetheless she can with sympathise with her. 
Already having devoured a vast quantity of books in the past, the passenger placed diagonally from the girl finds this text something from a detour from his usual reading endeavours, considering this a ‘light’ read. Its setting, he finds, is a poor excuse for the writer to camouflage his unavoidably bad usage of time and character. Despite all this, the reader persists because he can’t stand leaving any book unfinished. He has already ploughed through the entirety of both War and Peace and Ulysses in the past, so to encounter a thin book that’s ‘bad’ should by no means be a terrible tribulation.
    He is on page 74, which says:
Ikimuro sat on the bus, which drove her along the mountainous countryside. Not a thought on her mind, she neglected her book, opting to look out of the window.
    She had finally done it: she had left her for the ‘Mystic House’. She had heard vague rumours about it, mostly about its owner Akira, who not only had a reputation as a guru but also a highly unlikable and difficult man.
    Ikimuro had long ago ignored Kazuizo’s phone calls; the poor fellow would probably be wallowing in grief, but Ikimuro could not care less.
    Breaking off all ties with her family, she took all the money of her savings and left. She could not afford Europe, which would have been preferable, though she thought to herself that this ‘Mystic House’, however menacing, could lead her onto a new spiritual way of life she had not reckoned with

On the back seat of the bus is a young man who fixes his eyes on the girl at the front. What he is doing could be considered stalking, though means no harm. Every week he looks out for her in a local cafe, in the hope they may meet. She doesn’t notice him, anguishing him, driving him to catch her bus in the remote hope they might strike up a conversation.
    Knowing that he doesn’t have it in him, he tries veering his thoughts elsewhere by reading the book he carries. He is on page 79; it says:
Upon entering the house, Ikimuro was startled by the darkness, casting itself all over the room, obscuring any discernible content. Looking at her surroundings more closely, she saw immense book shelves, expanding across the wall, reaching the heights of the ceiling. Most of the books seemed archaic, with creased yellow pages.
    A dwarf appeared, holding a candle scarcely illuminating the surroundings. “Come here, Miss Ikimuro. Welcome to the Mystic House. Follow me and you will find Master Akira.”
    The dwarf took the lead and Ikimuro, feeling weary and nervous, followed him. They walked ahead of the dingy book shelves and headed into an equally unattended hall with sooty tablature. The dwarf walked down spiralling stairs.
    Having walked a considerable distance down these stairs, Ikimuro encountered difficulties breathing, the room they reached being entirely laden in smoke. Entangled within was Akira. He had a long white beard enlarging considerably onto his chest, coupled by menacing brown eyes and an encirclement of white hair. “Ikimuro, at what age does a girl become a woman?”
    Panicking, she replief “Eighteen.”
    “No, you’re guessing! At what age does a girl become a woman!”
    Ikimuro gave innumerable answers, to which he replied “You’re guessing!” Seeing that this probing was leading nowhere, Akira bellowed out “Dwarf, she is not ready yet! Take her to the room.”   

The reader soon puts the book down and turns his gaze to the young girl again. What he just read meant absolutely nothing to him. To console himself he looks at what he considers a truly beautiful specimen.
On the far right of the back seat is a man who looks very ordinary; one senses that you have seen him before. He looks out of the window for most of the journey, disregarding the book rested on his knees. Soon enough he resumes reading. Reading it intermittently, he is on page 91:
She had passed the last few days ensnared in small room, virtually without human contact. Food was pushed in through a small gap, consisting of tough stringy meat.
    What possible spiritual lesson could this offer? What was Akira trying to make her understand? Was this some sort of rehabilitation process? Ikimuro found it difficult to understand, simply letting the endless hours just slip away.
    To make her stay less arduous she meditated. This consisted of lying on the mattress, without moving a single part of the body. While doing this, she’d try to keep a clear slate.
He feels a little indifferent to these unusual tribulations, so he rests the book on his knees and looks back at the window.
Three seats ahead to the right is a middle-aged woman who ploughs through a novel. She is a voracious reader, having already reached page 115 of this one. She finds that she has grown to like it; novels set in unusual places intrigue her. She is on her way to home, with the intention of preparing her husband a meal, who has been out on long business. She is currently reading:
Akira seldom made an appearance after her release from the room. She was left to her own devices in the beautiful gardens of the House. These consisted of decaying trees, large ponds and a fog that swept through the air; she loved to stroll through here. Ikimuro found that, like the room she was secluded in, this environment, for the first time in her life, allowed her to be introspective. She thought of subjects in the lowest recesses of her mind.
    It was autumn and the leaves plummeted down. She laid beside an oak and witnessed the leaves, one by one, falling upon her. They had a spectral otherworldly quality. The leaves fell and fell until she was completely covered.
    She broke out of the morass of leaves and walked back to the other end of the garden. Here she saw a thoughtful young man walking along the fronds. Could this be a new alumnus in the Mystic House? In the entire time of her residence, Ikimuro had been Akira’s only follower.   
The woman keeps reading, intrigued by what plot development will come next.
On the seat behind her is an old, somewhat decrepit woman. She reads book for the very same reason women her age read books: something to go with a nice cup of tea on a Sunday afternoon. This book is a very different acquisition indeed; it concerns the trials and tribulations of a Japanese adolescent. It is not set in the 19th century, it is not entirely a love romance and it is not about the love affairs and conundrums of the Bloomsbury group. She has kept reading the novel steadily – she is on page 142 – but it has come to a certain point now where she can’t go any further:
He stuffed her cunt with Akira’s teaching stick, gushing out blood that seeped down her legs and ankles. He crammed his blood-soaked fingers into his mouth. Ikimuro cried “More! More!”
    But now Ikimuro was the initiator, gagging his cock in her mouth. He moaned in pleasure, repeteadly slapping her face, pulling her hair and scratching the contours of her face, causing her to shriek in pain.
    She flaunted her blood-soaked cunt and pleaded “Enter it! Enter it!” He inserted it and she had an orgasm, trickles of blood ran down, soaking his cock in the process. “Make my cock red!” he said.
The old woman reads this with eyes and mouth ajar, completely aghast by the sadistic imagery. She has never read such filthy words in her life; she looks towards all directions of the bus, losing her sense of time and place. Why had she ploughed through such filth? She can’t comprehend why she had even bought it.
In contrast with the old woman, two seats ahead, a gentleman is glued to the pages. He has found the majority of it to be quite a bore, but the explicit sex scenes startled him. Although the book has moved on from the ‘dirty bits’, he still reads avidly. He is on page 197:
Akira addressed the two ruthless lovers in the pavilion. He said “You two shall now be parted. You have been of great use to me and each other, but I think you’ll be better alumni if you are parted..”
    Ikimuro and her lover exchanged horrified looks. They couldn’t believe that they wouldn’t see each other; they thought that the principal reason for their residence in the
‘Mystic House’ was to keep each other company.
    They tried to revoke Akira’s decision, but he didn’t take cause to their pleas. He walked away and they realise that they were on their own. If they were to be parted everlastingly, shouldn’t they make the most of this brief moment?
    He fingered Ikimuro, getting an orgasm immediately, spurting out more blood.
So there was another appearance of a ‘dirty’ scene, much to his delight. This gives more of an incentive to read on.
Sitting on the seat next to this man is an oriental person, who finds this novel completely false and uncharacteristic of his native Japan. After all, it was written by a British, not Japanese, author. He feels that the author should have done even the smallest ounce of research to authenticate it. Despite this, he is nearing the end, on page 222:
The temple shielded her from the rest of the world. She had grown to understand Akira’s intention. Placing her in this temple had led her onto greater and better achievements.
    She had learnt to move inanimate objects by way of thinking. She had to merely think of colours and certain objects would raft into the temple. Thinking of blue brought in oak leaves, thinking of orange brought in sand and thinking of yellow brought church bells.
    Surrounded by all these artefacts, it wasn’t the artefacts which brought her pleasure, it was the process. Thinking of these colours was an incredibly rewarding, though somewhat rigorous, experience.
    Ikimuro felt no need to ever leave or meet any one ever again.
The oriental man considers this to be a gross simplification and stereotypical portrayal of his native homeland. Why should a novel set in Japan consist of mysticism and meditation? This would be admissible, on the other hand, if it was executed well, but it isn’t.
Finishing a book is always exciting for this middle-aged man, in front of the two aforementioned people. He is now on page 234, six away from the end:
As Ikimuro left the temple, she felt fatigued. She had been within it for months – perhaps years, she wasn’t sure – and as she staggered through the rocks, she fell to the ground.
    She had spent so much time in this magical place that it was almost as if she’d created an entirely new, microcosmic universe. Why had she left it? She felt no desire to return to the ‘real world’, or even Akira’s Mystic House. She had learnt to manipulate objects, artefacts and thoughts; she was in a truly wonderful state, feeling no need go back to her previous mundane life.
    Now she has fallen to the ground, coughing blood, incapable of moving. She fell on a bed of rocks and the peasants gathered in a circle to witness her suffering.     
The man gets his bookmark out and makes a record of the page. He aims to finish the book at home.
The bus nears my home street and I press the bell. Some have stopped reading, others continue. One thing that prevails is that every person holds the same book and that every person is sat on the same bus. I get off and walk home.
Written between late November and early December 2010

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