god, how you must hate us. tinny speakers are playing a whispering game, turning pixie lott into ed sheeran and making you want to rip the ears off the side of your head like a paper doll. the bus smells of sour cream and onion pringles and the chemical marshmallow scent of sun lotion and you can’t even open your window. one of the kids on the back row is about to throw up into a plastic halloween bowl and you can conjure up exactly the sound that sour liquid rainbow will make when it hits the plastic. what a treat. at the same time, another kid starts crying and you fumble for your foam earplugs just as the teacher taps you on the shoulder, foundation dripping off her face like a melted ice lolly. she reminds you of your year six teacher, the way she used to finish all her sentences with ‘actually’ and count to ten on double-jointed fingers. this woman’s short fingers are decorated with fake silver rings, gems sparkling like tiny sequins from an arts and crafts project. she tells you to stop at the next petrol station and you think oh, good, more time with these creatures. but when they all crawl off the bus, you take a breath and stand up, looking down the aisle like it’s the climax of the film and you’re face-to-face with your arch nemesis. one of the kids has left their ipod wedged down the side of their seat and as party in the usa starts playing and miley cyrus starts wailing about LAX you think jesus christ, we’re in peterborough.
Katie Kirkpatrick (she/her) is a student from Cambridgeshire with an offer to study French at Oxford. She won the 12-18 category of the BBC Proms Poetry competition 2019, has been published by Young Poets Network and emagazine, and is forthcoming in Eponym Magazine. Twitter: @katiejohannak.