A young girl follows her dreams to go west.
|In the early morning the bus terminal was dusty and dry. Diesel fumes hung in the air threatening to suffocate the waiting crowds. People clung to the edges of crumbling pavement, gripping their tickets. I joined the throng and found my line. Unlike the lines for closer locales, my line was sparse.
I moved close to a guy who had his duffle bag propped up for him to lean on, his guitar case cradled across his legs. A hat covered his face, but I could see from his knurled hands he was older. I turned away not wanting to stare, but I was curious.
I found a spot down the wall a ways off from the guy and settled down to wait. I pulled out the cereal bar I had crammed into my jacket pocket. I nibbled slowly and took sips from the water bottle I had taken from my mom’s apartment. She would not miss it anymore than she would miss me.
From my spot, I could watch people come and go. Buses would pull in scrape and hiss, crank open their doors and load people like cattle. Nobody looked happy. Not even the children that clung to their mothers.
Around the time the bus was due to arrive a woman dragged herself over. One child cling to her in sleep, another held her hand pulling at her with big tears rolling down her face. Another followed along pulling the remainder of their luggage. The family struggled to the edge of the pavement where the bus would stop and though she let go of her luggage, she jerked the crying child towards her.
“Enough.” She hissed, clearly irritated.
The other child, pulling the luggage, stepped up close to her mother and letting go of one of the bags, took her sister’s hand, leaning in to whisper to her. The younger girl sniffled and tried to pull herself back from the tears. The older girl whispered again and as I watched, the younger girl’s face found the light and a smile flickered across her lips. Her eyes crinkled finding the fun. The older girl smiled at her.
It was then that our bus rumbled into the station shifting itself into the slot marked for Santa Fe. The hiss and bellow of its arrival stirred the man against the wall and his head came up. Rubbing his eyes, he looked around doing a slow check to make sure all he possessed was with him. Satisfied, he shifted the guitar and rose slowly to his full height. He gathered up his gear and slowly made his way for the bus. As he moved passed me, he gave me a wink.
I stood and stretched, knowing it would be awhile before I would get the chance again.
The bus driver had disembarked and was opening the luggage compartment closest to the door.
I watched the woman direct her oldest to tuck their luggage into the compartment and keep it closely packed together.
The man threw his duffle bag in with careless ease. Then ambled back with his guitar to show the driver his ticket and board. He shuffled into the bus and moved down the narrow aisle before I moved forward with my own duffle which was painted with my own designed graffiti. I laid it close to the woman’s bags.
I waited for the woman to show her family’s tickets then urge the oldest on, followed by the younger one. She followed as they moved up into the bus. The younger girl struggled with the bus’s huge steps and her mother reached out and yanked at her small arm propelling her up and on. The little girl let out a wail of pain but her mother only pushed her again.
I stepped up and smiled at the bus driver. He already looked tired and worn. My smile was met with a bleakness that felt cold and had my heart sinking. I moved slowly up the steps and let my eyes adjust to the buses interior. I scanned the rows of seats and located the man. He had gone further back in the bus to the seats closest to the tiny washroom. Here the seats was three wide and he and his guitar stretched out to use all the space. His eyes were already closed and his head bowed.
The woman was still directing her children. The younger one was still crying; standing in the aisle holding her arm. The older girl was trying to coax her sister into the seat beside her as their mother scolded and fumed. The youngest child, disturbed by the jostling and the noise, woke and added his own wails. The noise level soared.
As they had stopped up closer to the front of the bus, I could not move any further down the aisle. I stopped to wait. This allowed me to see the few other souls that clung within the seats. Some slept, oblivious to the fact that a stop had been made, others looked on. Of those, some looked annoyed at all the wailing and fuss, while others did not seem to care.
One older woman, her skin like lightly creamed coffee, stepped up from behind the children and spoke in low, soothing tones to the younger child. It was not long before she was smiling again and moving to settle in beside her sister. The mother gave the woman a grateful half smile then dipped herself into the seat across from her girls shifting her son to a more comfortable position so that his cries eased and he soon settled.
I gave the older woman a smile that she shared back with me as I passed her along the aisle. I decided I would stay close to her. She radiated safety and warmth. As I settled in to write, I felt a sense of calm that everything was going to be alright.
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