i bought naola a plane ticket back to miami for christmas, but being short for cash, i bought myself a bus ticket. i’m no stranger to greyhound and i’ve come to expect the kind of weird shit that always happens to me on these buses.
i’d like to put my greyhound experiences in the realm of spiritual self-discovery, like a psychadelic dream voyage where your spirit guides are pissed off old bag ladies, crack addicts and migrant workers… or maybe a message from the gods who graciously shine a light on your soul, except the gods are ill-tempered and have attention deficit disorder, so all you’re left with are mismatched experiences and imagery from which you may or may not derive meaning.
i’ve learned to prepare for these trips. you have to put yourself in a certain state of mind. first and foremost, you have to let go. if you’re actually in a hurry to get to your destination, or if you think you’re actually going to get there on time, you’re already fucked.
i get to the station in ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO and as soon as i buy my ticket and say goodbye to naola and mary, i’m informed over one of those friendly blaring speakerphones that my bus will be delayed two hours. “GREAT!”, i think to myself, “this gives me just enough time to catch a movie at the theatre next door”. i ask at the counter if they’re sure the bus will be leaving in two hours… “no sir, you’d best stay here the entire time just in case the bus leaves early”
right then. i sit on my ass by the door with a group of bewildered first-time travellers. luckily i’d brought a book – THE FIFTH MOUNTAIN by paulo coelho
the bus takes off two and 3⁄4 hours later.
or it tries to. it lurches backwards for a moment and then comes to a stop. i astutely notice something is askew by the way the driver is flailing his arms and bobbing his head. he picks up the instruction manual for the bus and starts reading it. he runs out of the bus. the occupants of the bus look at eachother nervously…
he returns with a technician. the technician looks at the driving controls and instantly points at a lever, then walks out laughing. apparently our driver has never heard of an emergency brake. with the knowledge that we’re in good hands here, we set off eastward, with hoots and hollers from the bus occupants.
some hours later we arrive in AMARILLO, TEXAS and i find a new seat across from a young texan and directly behind this lady in her mid-late twenties and her 6 year old daughter.
an hour or so later, the texan starts up from sleeping and stares straight at me, intently. not being one to ever have a single shred of common sense, i stare straight back.
“where’s th-th-the fire?” he asks me, his words coming out even more drawled than your usual texan
i’m beginning to wonder if some part of my brain has collapsed, “the what?”
“the fire. we gotta switch buses because of the fire.”
“i don’t understand what you’re talking about…”
he gives me the most incredulous look, like i’m a complete moron, says “alright, alright man… that’s cool”, and falls back asleep
confused, i close my eyes and fall asleep as well.
about another hour later i open my eyes and see the little girl playing in front of my seat. i’m in one of those half-awake/asleep states so i’m not quite sure if this is a dream. the little girl is saying something… i think she’s talking to me… i’m too tired to try to comprehend her words.
”… a pwesent. would you like a pwesent?”
i notice she has crayon smudges on her face, and small cuts and scabs near the corner of her mouth where she’d probably been chewing her lips. her hair is dirty and she’s barefoot.
i nod my head slightly, eyes still half closed.
“OK!” her head disappears underneath the chairs.
she pops back up again, with a little piece of reese’s or some morsel of candy bar… something she’d found on the floor of the bus. she takes a bite, chews it just for a moment and then throws the rest on the floor
“no no… too old!” and dives back under the chair.
she appears again with a half-smoked cigarette. it’s gray and flat from having been stepped on some. she takes a few pretend drags…
“these are iwegal!” she whispers to me, and drops it back down. i’m still not sure of what’s happening, and i begin to doze off again, even though i know she’s talking to me.
she continues talking to me, and at some point says “ok but pwomise you won’t tell anyone!”
“awe you shuwah?”
i nod again.
“ok be wight back!” and she runs over to her mother’s seat. i begin to open my eyes a bit more at this point… and i’m beginning to wonder what i’ve just agreed to.
she comes back to my seat a couple of minutes later and leans over on my arm (apparently we’re confidants now) and hands me a slip of paper she’d torn out of one of her coloring books.
“this is my phone numbaw, cawl me anytime you like… my numba is” and at this point she points at each number in succession, “zewo, twee, foyve, six”. i’m taken by how cute this all is, so i nod again, this time with a smile, and slip the paper into my jacket.