Not the Only One (Triggers ahead, take care.)

I was eighteen

(but I looked twelve)

and he was a bus driver

who took me home from time to time.

He was known for his charisma

and for making people smile

for wishing them a good day

After a few weeks of taking me home

He gave me a tiny slip of paper from his pocket

with his number on it

with a smiley emoticon beside it

it was so slim it was nearly tangled in all the rest

of those tiny slips with happy faces

I added his number to my phone because I thought

he was lonely

or maybe eccentric

and there were so many tiny slips with smiley faces

I could not be the only one.

He would say, “I love your smile”

or “Have a happy day”

or send more emoticons,

strange little aliens that bounced

ones I had never seen before.

They were innocent enough.

They were innocuous enough.

They were harmless enough.

But it was enough

to make me wary

to make me leery

to make me squirm in my seat

I told him: “I’m not interested.”

because I had no other words

He said:

“I’m sorry”

“I didn’t mean it like that.”

“I never meant to…”

He said all the ‘right’ things.

And years afterward, I heard people speak of him

and how cheerful he was.

and how lovely he was.

and how he brightened their day.

and had I ever had him as a bus driver?

I told myself that maybe I was wrong.

Maybe he was lonely.

Maybe he was eccentric.

I was not the only one.

and besides,

the texts were harmless enough.

If I took them to the police station

there would be no evidence

only absence. 

So I told myself again

that he was lonely

that he was eccentric

that I was not the only one.

I told myself that I was wrong.

Years after that, even longer still

I found out he was charged

with owning and possessing

illicit photos of underaged children

I never found out if he was tried

or convicted

It was enough to know 

 that they suspected him, too.

I was not the only one.

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