Sunday, September 16, 2007

taking the bus

Lindsay G and I are at Ground Effects coffee shop. She is working on lesson plans and I am working on distracting myself from racing thoughts and an appalling sense of indecisiveness. Christmas music is playing over the intercom and I am wishing the time was right. I can't wait to go home again.

Jonathan's wedding was incredibly lovely. The visit, though short and partially responsible for afore mentioned uncomfortable thought patterns, was a pure delight. I saw everyone my heart had been longing for whom I normally miss on my visits; Daniela, Jenny Pea, Jacob, Hunter, my family. Even Elise seemed a sight for sore eyes, thought I've not shared much life with her, she is such a treasure.

The night that I left Daniela met Adam, Pop and I at the Greyhound station. They waited with me. Daniela laughed and cringed at the security guards noose tattoo. The man behind us with long dirty hair shook like a druggie in detox. The atmosphere was very like that at the less exemplary jails I've visited. Employees at this station embodied the same sense of disregard for fellow humans that I've encountered in guards.

"Amy, if you want to change your mind, I will help you buy a plane ticket," Adam said.

"I will definitely get you a plane ticket," Pop said.

"Maybe you can get a refund here," Dani added.

"No thanks," I said, trying a laugh. I was terribly nervous. I was rigidly determined. I had no thought of leaving any way but the one I'd planned.

They walked with me all the way to the glass door that swung open for ticketed passengers only. I uncertainly set my bag in front of an indifferent man in Greyhound uniform. His expression indicated I may look like an alien at the moment, so I hurried to the bus before he turned me away. I waved at my nervously huddled loved ones from the window seat.

A neatly dressed Korean woman with oily hair tied up in multiple clips sat beside me. Daniela had asked her to take the seat next to me. "Take care of her for us," Pop had said to her.

"Are you the baby?" she asked me after telling me this.

"Not really, but I am the youngest away from home."

"Oh, you are the baby," she said, patting my shoulder.

Mom asked me later if we'd exchanged numbers, but I never even got her name. She was on her way to a Korean bathhouse in North Carolina,

"That's why I'm not clean," she explained. "My family worried about me too," she said, "but I tell them, 'I'm just going to sleep, no problem.'"

The woman was telling me about her first time leaving home in Korea, "…everyone cried. I missed them so much. But, now I have husband and my own child. My first home will always be home," she said, "just like with you."

Before the bus took off from the station we overheard a disturbance in the front. The driver was arguing with a woman trying to board. He called security. We watched as a small sinewy woman with limp apricot-colored hair hanging down her back was led back to the station; howling miserably.

"Oh let her on," my new friend murmured, "that could be me."

They did not let her back on and we watched her watching us slowly pull away.

Saying goodbye to my family hurt this time. It was really goodbye. On the bus, in the dark, I wondered if my decision was good.

"Lord grant me wisdom," I prayed, watching the cement landscape slide away, "your brother James promised you would. Don't make him look bad." I conjured images of the ladies of Healing Rain to strengthen my resolve. I thought of what was being left behind because of distance and time and choices. The Prayer of Confession asks forgiveness for things done and for things left undone. It is often the latter that haunts me most. My Korean friend seemed asleep. Iron and Wine crooned through my iPod earphones. I sent a foolish text. I cannot dwell in the past. Not now while most of me is moving determinedly forward.

I was sad to part ways with my seat partner in Atlanta. We wished each other luck and made our way to separate connections.

"I'm in Atlanta and its much nicer here!" I texted to Pop. It was about 7:30a.m. Here, a fellow passenger held the terminal door for me. Blue and white tile reflected fluorescent light. Announcers spoke coherently. Doors were labeled.

A wiry, dark security guard a few rows from the one where I was queued held up a plastic baggy of pocket knives and razor blades.

"Anyone else?" He yelled in a sopranic Disney-side-kick voice, "Did everyone give me their knives? Or will I have to search you?"

Before boarding I saw him playing with a huge puppet of that critical old man Muppet character. The puppet's head over-shadowed the man's. A waifish girl with slender, hunched shoulders covered by a bright green sweater over a bright yellow shirt approached him. Her dark hair was cut in a wavy bob. She wore black rectangular glasses.

"Do you want to help me with this," the security guard squawked, flapping the puppets mouth. The girl shook her head, raised her cell phone, and took a picture.

"How much you wanna bet this guy gets us lost?" The big red-bearded man sitting next to me whispered in my ear. I'd sat behind the driver per Adam's suggestion and this fellow had joined me there.

"I hope he doesn't," I responded.

"If he does, he's S.O.L."

"We all are."

Our bus had been redirected because of some race or marathon transpiring in Marietta, GA. The event had traffic at an utter standstill leading to great protestation and foul comments amongst my fellow travelers. A shiny bald-headed man leaned against the drivers plastic guard rail and continually asked him questions he had no answers for.

One of the most vocal and profane objectors was the young women in front of me. She had bleached blond hair, scabby pimples and wore a wife beater that revealed beautiful shoulders. She was traveling with her four-year-old son whom she alternately curses and plays with. Their interaction was more like adolescent peers than mother and child putting me in mind of the family dynamics class I'd recently facilitated.

At one point I was lucky enough to catch the little boy's attention. We played hide and seek, rising and ducking around the seat-back. We played hand slaps.

"Don't let him be that annoying little kid on the plane," his mom said.

"Oh he's fine. How old is he?"


"My nephew is four. He's really doing great for this long of a ride."

That made her smile. "We've been traveling since yesterday afternoon."

They were on their way from Miami to Knoxville. It sounded like they'd be going to her mom's. She'd never been there before. "If it's like this, I'm leaving!" I overheard her say as we drove through the sparsely populated outskirts of Chattanooga.

Behind me was another mother-child duo. A lightly built but strong looking African American woman, very young, and her tiny toddler daughter. The baby had pipe-cleaner appendages, knotted black curls and a gummy smile. She loved to laugh, and to rage. They both were able to sleep and I praised God for the mother's momentary respite. At the depot, a man saw her struggling with her baby and baggage. He offered to take one.

"It's heavy," she muttered.

He gently took the bulky suitcase from her hand, "It's all right."

People show their fears in different ways, and their graciousness too. I am glad to have shared a scene with these characters living out their assorted stories. Every day I wonder if staying in Kentucky is a mistake. Yet, I stay. There is a reason for this solitary exodus. I want to learn to live the beatitudes; to know Jesus as he desires to be known; to love you well. I am glad for this adventure. I am grateful for this life.

No comments: