The air was starting to smell pretty thick with smoke. I guess this bus doesn't have an air conditioner. I should just be glad I'm getting there in time. But there's never enough time. Out the window the wheat on the valley floor ran next to the highway. Every once in awhile you can see a jackrabbit attempt to dart across the road. But mostly right now, there is dead dry air and not enough cigarettes to distract me. Such a dull, slow drive.
I am looking over the seats down the rows of cushioned, plaid seating. On top of each fabric chair was a dryer sheet, a type of doily or drape to preserve hygiene. Each one was stained a different gray brown. I grasped the top of one to see if there were any open seats. I know we'll need some for the next set of passengers boarding in Coalinga. Outside the window endless stretches of dirt and weeds. It was starting to get late and it was still so hot.
Right now I had the whole double seat to myself. I have my Walkman, my book, my drawing pad and my letters. Both of my jackets, my lunch snack, my rubber ball. I could put my feet up and stretch across the seat sideways to sleep. And no one to bother me. And four more hours to go. The fields flecked by. It was 2 in the afternoon. There are 10 more towns to slump through before we arrive. I can feel all my time slipping away in this dull dull bus. But the minutes are turning into hours of unbearable dullness.
Fresno. The bus is trundling into its stop. I scan the line of dirty disheveled people waiting to get on. There goes my seat alone.
Joseph walked up the aisle. He stopped, loaded his suitcase above on the rack, pushed his other case underneath the seat, and sat down with his last three grocery bagged packages in the seat.
"Hi There! How ya doin today? Pretty hot out there, eh? I don't think its goin under 100 degrees tonight boy. I'm tellin ya, there has gotta be something wrong with the master plan up there, you know what I mean? God is just gettin ready to give us a mean one, that's all I'm sayin. Best keep on your knees if you know what's good for ya." Joseph took a long breath in and stared at me, rumpled up with my stuff in the seat next to him, staring back. I took a deep breath too. "Hi".
And then I didn't know what to say. Suddenly I could feel my neck get stiff, so I turn to look at the rubber binding on the window.
Everything on this bus is dirty and smudgy. 'God' I thought to myself, disgusting. I can only move my feet now, there is no room. I sneak a glance over at my seat partner. He is looking right back at me. "So, ya goin far little girl?" He asked me, unblinking.
"I'm not a,..."I stopped myself, "goin very far."
Ahh, that's too bad, I like having such a pretty young thing sittin next to me. Someone I can talk to, that's nice. Can I ask your name?"
"It's Tiffany. Look, I don't want to talk, I'm in the middle of a letter to my family, so, if you don't mind..."
The bus finally pulled into town. It had cooled off outside now and the sky looked different. Plus it was quiet now. Cars off the street cause it was too late for work traffic and too early for the bar drinkers of party kids and night cruise traffic. It was just quiet. I got my stuff off the bus and began my walk across town to get home. I think they know what bus I was on though.
"Fresh Fruit Flavors, that's Breath savers!" La da de da, da de da, my feet feel fast. I ran through the grass. Bop ba da, bop da ba, my bag feels light, my legs feel strong. Walking and singing, just dancing and singing. Bop ba da, bop bab ba. Home's not far from here now, I thought. I'm getting there fast. It's only been an hour now and I'm over the freeway going east now. I should be there in another hour. It'll be after dinner but that's ok. I can have something late. And I'll just visit, and eat.
These are my words allowed to myself. I roam back and forth along the wide sidewalk. The city highway towards the new part of town that I was walking along now is pretty empty. And the sky had changed again. It looks so big here, I can't help but look at it.
Above me stars dotted a blurry black sky. The highway stretches down so far ahead of me, I can't even see the traffic lights on Stockdale Avenue. My feet sunk into the grass I had wandered off the sidewalk into. Ahead of me I could see the church I went to with my cousins when I was really young, and farther up, I could see the place I used to go to in high school when I thought I needed mental help. Boy was I glad they were free. The grass is part of the church yard, an A-frame design all blues and shingled with a huge gold rod pointing out of the top of it. 'Gotta get there now pretty soon", I thought. It must have been six by now and already it felt like the night was about over.