The anxious boy and his love stories on public transportation

Mohammad Fahmi
5 min readApr 6, 2019


Illustration by Wilsa Pratiwi (Instagram/Instagram)

The day was hot, sunny, and humid, just like most days in Jakarta. I was standing inside a crowded bus without a properly working air conditioner nor proper ventilation, trying to keep myself productive in the unfriendly environment by reading my recently bought copy of Haruki Murakami’s The Elephant Vanishes while listening to the random playlist of my old iPod.

Despite the condition, I can say I was lucky because I was standing near the rear door of the bus, leaning my back on the side of one of the seat. Safe enough to not fall out of the bus, breezy enough to enjoy the coming wind.

I was on a public bus in Jakarta, so naturally, I need to be wary with my surrounding, securing my belongings from pickpocket and other earthly pests. I glanced around the bus several times in between my readings, and that was when I saw her.

It’s hard to describe her. She has no specific characteristic to differentiate her with other women. She was like the perfect example of the girl you randomly passed on the sidewalk every day. A girl you might glance for a few moments, then a few steps later it would be hard just to remember how her eyes, nose, or lips look like.

She was standing near the front door of the bus, not leaning on anything or anyone, not touching the bacteria infested hand grip on the ceiling of the bus, although to be fair, it might be hard for her to reach that grip anyway. But still, she stood there with the perfect balance of a tree rooted in healthy soil, she stood as if somebody just put Venus de Milo silently in the bus and somehow fits perfectly without anyone noticing.

She was wearing a pair of earphone, wired — just like how headphones were supposed to be, while putting a slight smile on her face. Sometimes she closed her eyes for a few moments, enjoying whatever music she’s listening. Her eyes rarely stay in one place, they kept wandering around the bus, not too fast like someone anxious, not too slow like someone that’s specifically looking at something.

Maybe she’s the one, I said to myself.

This is not the first time thoughts like this crossed my mind. As a hopeless romantic, seeing any girls that piqued my interest will immediately trigger my brain to start a story. A story of how I will approach them, getting to know them — with terms and conditions that they are just like how I imagined them to be, start dating, get married, have kids, live in our home, and so on.

Random Cuties, that’s how I call them. Unicorns among the pretty. The term does not apply to any cute girls I see. It has to be someone special … or at least someone I imagined to be special. The thing is, automatically imagining those stories whenever I happened across a random encounter with Random Cuties is not healthy. It puts a toll on my mind and of course on my heart. It puts a lot of expectations before any opportunities even arise.


She looked at me! We made eye contact even only for a flash of seconds. I immediately return to my book. Did she notice my glances? Did she notice the thoughts inside my head? My head can’t stop overthinking.

I continue staring at my book. With what just happened, I obviously can’t read properly. My eyes were looking at the texts, but nothing was processed other than the thoughts of her.

I glanced back at her, and she was staring at me. Eye contact more than once, it has to be something!

Should I approach her and introduce myself?

Yes, yes, I should.

But what if things go wrong?

What’s the worst thing that could happen if we introduce ourselves?

First, it’s a crowded bus, and moving from the rear door to the front will definitely annoy some people. Second, what if after we approached her, SHE becomes annoyed and…

Oh come on, you are overthinking as usual, nothing bad will happen even if she got annoyed.

Don’t cut me! What will happen? Well, she might scream and say I’m a pervert, and then the whole bus will beat me to death. Third, and the worst, what if we introduce ourselves, then it turns out she’s not like how we imagined her to be. All the time and energy will be wasted for years of agony!

Everything will be fine! Don’t worry too much! No matter what happens, we have to try first.

No, too much at risk!

The debate is still happening inside my head. And that’s when it happens. We made another eye contact, but this time … this time, it lasts longer than a few seconds. And then, she smiled at me. Just a small curve on that perfectly normal looking beautiful lips. I quickly return to my book.

See! You HAVE to do it.


Remember the girl with violin we saw on the train to Yogyakarta a few years ago?

Of course I remember.

Exactly! She’s just a random person that somehow sat across you on the train. We don’t even remember the month, and yet, we still remember the maroon coat she was wearing, the violin case she put on the upper compartment of the train, her reddish pixie cut hair, her…

Stop it! That was different! And we might have saved ourselves from embarrassment by not talking to her.

The thoughts, the noise, the internal dialogue, they won’t stop arguing. I was sweating, but not because of the heat, it’s a cold sweat. This need to stop.

“STOP!!” I screamed internally.

They stopped. And just in time, my old iPod randomly shuffled to Explosions in the Sky’s “The Only Moment We Were Alone.” I cranked up the volume, put my book to my bag, and just … breathe.

I might lose the chance to meet THE ONE by doing this. But at least, as long as I don’t know her, she’s perfect.

As far as I know, she might be listening to Explosions in the Sky.
As far as I know, she might be a big fan of Murakami and Final Fantasy IX.
As far as I know, she might be single.
As far as I know, she might be the 100% perfect match for me that I believe doesn’t exist if my knowledge of her goes farther than as far as I know.

Besides, as the old saying goes: if it’s meant to be, it will be.

The bus stopped in front of Plaza Senayan, my destination. I guess it’s time for me to go. I decided to not look at the direction of her. Knowing if I looked at her will be the last time I ever see her is too difficult for a hopeless romantic like me.

I left the bus and enjoyed the warm sun and the breeze of fresh air, finally out of that metal Schrodinger’s box.

That’s when it happened. I turned my head to the right, and there she was, standing alone still enjoying the newfound breeze out of the hot metal box we named bus. She turned her head to the left, showing a slight surprise of seeing me standing there.

After that, she smiled.

So, if it’s meant to be, it will be?



Mohammad Fahmi

A boy trying to find himself and the others through words.