Finally…the story of how I began my mini-vacation. It has gotten bumped twice and was on its way to sitting on the shelf for the third time (it would have been keeping Meredith Grey company) but I am holding off on telling you guys how badly my birthday sucked….I am still trying to put that in perspective and make sure I am not being a spoiled brat about how that day turned out. So my mini-vacation was spent with my family to celebrate my brother’s return from South Korea where he teaches English as a Second Language (he’s gone back for another year). I was not excited to go home…like most families, we have drama and dysfunction and while I was looking forward to going home (I always call my parents’ house home because home is where the people who love you are) for my daddy’s cooking and seeing my parents and siblings…I was not looking forward to the arguments and being treated like a little kid. But I had to go…it had been too long and how could I miss seeing my brother for the first time in a year and probably not for another year?
I had options to get there….I could rent a car, ride the train or take Greyhound…and I chose the bus. Yes, the ride would be longer but it would be cheaper and I find that people tell their stories on the bus. They say in the end, we are all stories. Definitely, everyone has a story….but not everyone gets to tell their story and not everyone gets to hear the stories. On the bus, people tell their stories…it helps the time pass, it builds a rapport with the person you are spending hours with and maybe the person just needs to tell it. I decided to take a late night bus ride thinking I would sleep from DC to Richmond and perhaps from Richmond to Raleigh….and I was so, so wrong. Greyhound’s motto should be: we will take your dollars and get you there, no matter what time of day or night it is. If you really want to see a city that never sleeps, no need to go to New York City….hit up the Greyhound terminal. My bus to Richmond left at 11:40pm and when I hit the terminal at 10:30 that night, the line for my bus was wrapped twice around. Seriously?
But, I managed to get a seat on the bus that pulled in (Greyhound did roll out another bus after mine to ensure people made their connections) and found myself seated next to a girl from Philadelphia whom I will call Jill Scott. The woman held a strong resemblance to Jill Scott if Jill were to ever catch the Greyhound and pack a pillow, blanket and a pan of fried chicken to ensure a comfortable as possible trip to Atlanta. She only shared bits of her story…from what I could gather, Philly is a tough town for anyone, established or not and she was ready to take her chances on Atlanta…according to her, Bankhead was better than trying to stay afloat in Philly. There was the guy in front of us who was traveling with his brother and his young son…they were going to live with their grandfather in Richmond. The brother was fresh out of a NYC jail and his son’s mother was strung out on drugs and it was going to be a fresh start for the three of them.
We reached Richmond fairly quickly and Chef and my sister insisted I stay awake and vigilant once I reached that terminal…my layover was over 2 hours long and they were afraid I would fall asleep and perhaps be robbed, raped, and/or killed. Chef even insisted I text him so he will know I am safe. Well, I am here to state that their fears were unfounded….one would have thought it was 2pm there….the terminal was filled, crowded and everything was open: the ticket counter, the cafeteria and the gift shop. I was hungry and decided to grab a bite to eat and that is where I talked to the lady who was 80 years old (she looked 50 at the most) and preparing to visit her lover in New York City…her story is bittersweet at best. She has been with this man over 28 years…she lives in Richmond, he lives in Brooklyn. When they first got together all those years ago, she says they were madly in love, yet after 5 years together, he left her for another woman. No word, no explanation…just left and married this woman after knowing her a few months….gee, that sounds so familiar for some reason. She mourned him for a year or so, but eventually carried on with her life….and less than 2 years after she built her new life with her husband….her lover returned. He missed her, she was his one and would she ever forgive him and take him back? Yet, neither wanted to rock the boat in their new lives, but could not deny their love, chemistry and attraction to each other….so they agreed to meet twice a month. So for years, they alternated…she would go to him, he would come to her…they reveled in their love and according to her, the fact that it had to be hidden added to the spice. Her husband died, and then his wife died and she thought they would be free to be together again…but by that time, he was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and now…he is in a home in New York and she travels 3 times a month to see him. When she and I talked in the bus station cafeteria, she was on her way to help him celebrate his 80th birthday.
I told her that her story was sweet but also sad…she never really got to have him after their first time around and that woman looked at me with such sweetness and said that no one ever has anyone…people are not property. People share themselves with you and either you can accept what they can share or you can’t. She still sees him because she still loves him and she goes to be with him because even though he does not remember, she does. They hurt each other, risked marriages and hurting innocent people to be together and a love like that…it isn’t the best kind of love to have, but it is their love and she would not have it any other way. I last saw her standing in line, preparing to board the bus to New York City at 3am on a Friday morning. I hope the birthday was all she wanted it to be.
While in Richmond, there was an incident….a mother left her child in the bus terminal with luggage and an envelope with the child’s birth certificate and social security card. We only became aware of it when the bus making limited stops ( one of them Raleigh) pulled in and the girl (she was 11) had a ticket to Raleigh, but no parent. When asked where her mother was, the girl said her mother went to the store. Seriously?? At 3 in the morning in Richmond, Virginia, the mother had to go to the store and take her luggage with her? When the terminal had a cafeteria, a gift shop and a hundred vending machines? The police officer and station manager were informed; a call was dispatched to the Richmond Police Department and maybe 20 minutes later, the mother is escorted into the terminal by two police officers. She was crying and swearing she was not abandoning the child…she needed cigarettes and a soda and had no idea the store was so far, which tells me she was not from Richmond…so she was willing to brave the streets of a strange city at 3am for cigarettes and a soda when the terminal offered both those things plus so much more? Sounds like abandonment or drug addiction to me. The mother and daughter were allowed to board the bus and once they were settled in their seats, the mother grabbed her luggage (again!) and tried to leave the bus, claiming she had to use the bathroom but the driver told her to use the restroom located at the rear of the bus. I last saw them in front of the Raleigh bus terminal, the mother crying and talking to the daughter with the daughter looking as if she has heard this story before.
There were other people I met…the young Marine with shrapnel in his leg who smoked Newports and treated a homeless couple to a hot meal; the guy who could have been Chef’s brother who was headed to Winston-Salem for a fresh start after a disastrous love affair; the hair dresser with the big booty who lost her job and her apartment in Connecticut and was going back to her mother’s house; the bus driver who delivered me to my destination and gave me his number in the process. So many people, so many stories.
I am going to start planning a vacation to Seattle (I am giving relocation there serious consideration) and Greyhound is an option (one way only) , but there are pros and cons. Pros: cheap as hell ( only $200!!) , a chance to see plenty of America and oodles and oodles of stories and experiences. Cons: 3 days long, sleep deprivation, could get crowded and how much of America can be seen inside the terminal while I while away hours long layovers? It is still in the planning stages, so I have plenty of time to consider it. In the meantime, I may spend a Friday night at the bus terminal….I do want to hear stories again, and sooner rather than later.