Friday, September 2, 2011

A Bus to Nowhere

Sometimes I think of escaping on a Greyhound bus, just heading over to that station in town that doubles as a beer and lotto haven and demanding a ticket to anywhere. Wouldn’t that be romantic of me?

Of course, the clerk behind the dusty, crowded counter would ask, “Where to?” And I’d have to actually make a decision.

Decisions have never been my thing. Probably why I’m stuck in this dirty little town with nowhere to go and nothing to do. I should work on that, making a decision once in awhile.

Every now and then.

But the impulsiveness of my Greyhound dream is ruined by the uptight clerk just working for the weekend and that miniscule pay stub that’ll barely keep the hot water running.

Hot water is always the first to go, too. You figure you can’t live without electricity, but hot water is far from being vital, so you stop paying the gas bill first. Unless you’re my sister who takes forty-five minute showers. She scalds the impurities from her skin and gets down-to-the-bone clean. When she steps out of the bathroom with her dark blonde hair hidden under the tall towel turban resting on her head, she smiles with sweet ferocity and asks, “Oh, did you need to take a shower?”

I learned at an early age to appreciate a cold shower, so hot water would definitely be the first to go if I was the clerk behind the counter, with my tiny paycheck, enjoying a chance to ruin a customer’s attempt at impulsivity.

“Hey, lady.” The squeaky voice of the clerk knocks me out of my daydream violently, and I find myself standing in the stark reality and fluorescent lights of J’s Quik Stop.  The clerk behind the dusty, crowded counter says, “You’re holding up the line.”

What am I doing?

I blink at the clerk with the leftover pimples and crooked teeth and find myself demanding a dream. “I want a bus ticket.”

“To where?”

There’s a hundred and forty-seven dollars and sixty-three cents in my pocket. I grabbed it from the bottom of my jewelry box before leaving the house and telling my mom: I’ll be right back. She smiled sloppily at me and took another swig of Jack’s.  Okay, honey.

“To where, lady?”

And I tell him some anonymous place that doesn’t matter.

Two decisions in one day. This must be a world record for me.

He prints out the ticket, and I hand him my money. It’s a transaction that will determine my future, my place in life. The ticket feels heavy in my hand. Substantial. I stare at it for a moment, while the line behind me made up of men with six-packs sighs and fidgets like a six-year old who has to go potty.

The clerk clears his throat.

I smile, then turn around and walk away. There’s a bench just outside of the Quik Stop, with an ad promising of a quick and easy divorce for just under six hundred dollars. I smile at the pretty irony, because I divorced my life for just a hundred and some change.

I sit down and wait for the faint sound of the bus in the distance, arriving to carry me away.

I don’t know what awaits me in that anonymous town, hundreds of miles away, but I do know that I’m finally doing something. And, for now, that has to count for everything.

Author's Note: This week for Red Writing Hood we were challenged to write about a season of change for our characters. I was once a bored and jaded teenager, dreaming of leaving my small town behind for a pipe dream. Thankfully, I stayed put and realized my dream just where I was, but the romance of a bus trip to nowhere has never left me. 

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