Bus 40, forever

Second Prize in the 2021–22 Writing Contest

By Esme Hernandez, ’23

On a chilly morning on the last week of study abroad in Paris, two girls decide to catch the sunrise in Montmartre and then ride the bus. At the time, it was a whimsical sort of carpe diem moment, but now it ranks as one of my favorite memories to draw upon.

For a while after the pandemic, I struggled with getting up out of bed, finding even the most exciting of days overwhelming and redundant. Not today. Not this quarter.

Today, I dragged myself out of bed, but not for reasons of despondency. It was five thirty in the morning, and I was making an effort to rise in order to see the sunrise at Montmartre with Echo. I hadn’t known Echo very well before then, but after a quarter in Paris, we both knew what we were all about. And going to catch a sunrise forty minutes away by train was one of those things.

Quite a few people in our program agreed to come along on our mission to see the sun from the Sacré Cœur with Echo and me, but everyone was too tired after the excursion the day before. So, it was just us two, racing against the very sun we wanted to see.

It was amazing how much Echo loved Montmartre, and even more amazing that I was one of the people who was able to share in the moments with her. Everyone knew it was her favorite place, even professors. It was starting to be mine too.

It was kind of chilly when we got there, but we made it in such a rush that the heat from our mad dash up the steps of the Basilica was all I could feel. Unlike the other times I’d been there, there was almost nobody around us and the church, everyone else opting for a little more rest before the day began. Everything was pristine, untouched, and we silently reveled in the stillness of it all.

As I stood on the steps of the Sacré Cœur watching Echo, I hoped I could remember this feeling of contentment forever.

“Let’s catch bus 40 for a full route.”

We had been on the bus before, but not for a full circle, and certainly not in the crisp air. Catching the bus made me feel like I was a child again, pressing my nose to the glass of my public school bus on the way to elementary school. In that moment, I felt like the world was new. I was so in love with the moment that I made some silly joke about coming back to Paris one day and driving the 40 on butte Montmartre. We both laughed and got off the bus, looking for a breakfast before going back home.

Sometimes, when I’m feeling a little less motivated, I recall the feeling of wonderment that I had while circling the top of Montmartre on the bus with Echo. Steep drops and jagged turns, through the sunrise and beyond.

“You know, the day we took bus 40…when it went downhill to the end…I just wanted to climb it again and take the bus again,

and again,

and again.”