It was pouring that night. John waited anxiously at the bus stop, afraid he had missed the last bus. He was drenched already, and his umbrella was no match for the rain and the cold gusty winds. He was alone at the bus stop. When the bus arrived, it was empty. He got in, bought his ticket, and took a seat. Suddenly, he felt a tap on his shoulder. He was shocked because he’d thought he was the only one on the bus. He turned around to see a hooded man standing there. The man asked him to move in. John wondered why the hooded fellow wouldn’t sit elsewhere. Not wanting to get into an altercation, he obliged.

John was perplexed, for he could swear there was nobody at the stop, and the bus was empty too. So where did this man come from? The hooded man shifted in a little, cramping John for some room. John could no longer stay quiet.

“Excuse me,” said John.

“You talking to me?” asked the hooded man.

“Is there anyone else here?” John asked sarcastically.

“You never speak to me and have always ignored me; hence I wondered!” replied the hooded man.

“What? I don’t even know you!”

“That has always been your problem.”

“I don’t know what you are talking about, man. Anyways, why don’t you take another seat?”

“I finally have an audience with you. I’m not going to let it go!” said the hooded man.

John felt lost for words. “Do I know you?” he asked.

“You sure do.” As he spoke, he removed his hood and revealed himself.

John was shocked as the hooded man was none other than himself.

“How can this be?”

“I was sure you wouldn’t recognize me,” said the man. “You never spend enough time with yourself. How would you know me?”

“Who are you?” asked John.

“I am John, the real John!”

“That cannot be! I am the real John!”

“Hahaha!” laughed the man. “You are someone else under John’s skin. You are an imposter!” he accused. John was stunned.

“You are what everyone wants you to be. Have you ever been true to yourself? You live a timid life, trying to please everyone, but what about yourself? None cares about you; rather, none cares about me, the real John! You are anyone but John!”

“Go away!” yelled John.

“You can’t get rid of who you truly are. I am you; you can’t get rid of yourself!”

“Go away! Go away!” he yelled again and again.

Suddenly, John felt a firm tap on his shoulder. Dazzled, he looked behind to see the conductor standing there.

“Wake up!” said the conductor. “Are you ok? You dozed off and have been yelling at someone to go away, but nobody is here!”

“Yes, I’m fine,” replied a bewildered John, wiping the sweat off his brow. Tears welled up in his eyes as he sat up, contemplating the reality of his life.

Zeyd Ladha

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