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              “The Bus Ride”
 
 
She never really
wanted to
if you had
asked her
a month ago
she would have
laughed
at even the thought
of it.
She rests her head
against a
wadded up jacket
that is pressed up to
the large glass window
of the Greyhound bus
watching farms and
cornfields
turn into trees
and mountains
before flatting out
into California
nothingness
which was what
she was peering into
right now.
Things had gotten
bad for her
back home
with her mom working
long hours
and her stepdad
laid off
6-months ago
turned day drinking
into a full time job.
She liked the
openness
of the desert
the early morning sun
was reflecting off
her window
creating a small
spotlight
that she watched
as it raced along
beside her
flying over the
uneven
broken ground
as the bus
sped along
it’s never ending
asphalt trail.
She had saved
a fair amount
of money
leading up to
what her best friend
coined as
the “Great Escape”.
Once the decision
was made
they spent two weeks
planning out
all the minutiae
details
when the day
finally arrived
she walked out
the door
with just her
backpack
and a large
duffle bag
she had used
to carry her
softball gear in
stuffed with clothes
shoes
and a few personal
items.
The bus pulls in
to what isn’t
a station
but more like a stop,
driver holler’s out
“15-minutes”
“Clean bathrooms”
“And some”
“Vending machines”
she stands up
leaves her jacket
but takes her
backpack
and filter’s out
with her fellow
passengers
taking advantage
of the opportunity
to stretch their legs.
She jumps down
from the stairwell
on to the ground
and was a bit
surprised
at the height
being more than
she had anticipated
she readjusts her
backpack
slung over her
left shoulder
after her awkward
landing,
she feels surrounded
by the immediate
presents
of the day’s heat,
as soon as she
steps out of the
shadow of the bus
she is blinded
by the brilliance
of the sun’s light
her friend had
told her
to by some
sunglasses
“Everybody wears”,
“Sunglasses”,
“In California”,
she had said
but she just
laughed it off
as a silly saying
but as she
shields her eyes
with her hand
trying to locate
the vending machines
sunglasses move
more than
just a few
notches up
on her list
of things
to buy
once she hits
Hollywood.
She had left
early
on a Friday morning
leaving a note
for her mom
saying she’s staying
the weekend at
her friend’s house
and another note
hidden
for her mom
that she wouldn’t
find
till she was
long on her way.
She needed to go
before her stepdad
woke up from his
drunken slumber
less questions
that way
she told her friend
not wanting to say
more
as she picked her
up
for that short ride
to the bus station.
She made her way
to the vending machines
all the sodas
where in those
old style machines
that only held
bottles,
their necks
sticking out
waiting for your deposit
before you could
yank them free.
She looked over
all the flavors
and finally decided on
“Cactus Cooler”
she had never
tried it before
and it seemed
quite appropriate
for her
current location.
She digs around
her backpack
searching for some
spare change
and drops it into
the coin slot
making a very
unique sound
as the coins hit
their final resting
point.
She grabbed hold of
the refrigerated neck
of the bottle
and gave a
frim tug
to free it
from the mechanical
yoke
that was holding it
she popped off
the cap
using the machine’s
built-in bottle opener
and took a
moment
to look at the
logo on the bottle
which is a
orange and yellow
desert sky
she holds it up to
the desert horizon
and compares the two
nodding her approval
before taking
a long refreshing drink.
She walks towards
a little girl
of five or six
who’s bent over
staring at something
on the ground
her mother
keeping a watchful eye
on her
from the shaded steps
of the building
the day
already much too hot
to try and keep up
with the explorations
of her little girl.
As she got closer
she could see
what it was
that had
the little girl’s
attention
it was a lizard
an ugly looking one
kind of flat
with ruff
bumpy skin.
The little girl
looked at her
and smiled
pointed down at
her big discovery
and said
“Baby dinosaur”
and before
she could reply
it darted towards
the little girl
causing her to scream
and run for “Ma Ma”.
The driver
hit the horn
signaling it’s time
to re-board the bus
as she jumps between
the little girl and the lizard
then watches the lizard
disappear under a bush
and makes her way
back to the
vending machines
and puts her
now empty bottle
in a rack
with all the other
empty bottles
then
keeping her head down
to avoid
the sun’s glare
she heads for the bus.
She wanted her friend
just to drop her
and her stuff
in front of the
bus station
but her friend
wasn’t having it
she pulled in
and parked the car
walked to the station
with her
each girl holding
one of the nylon straps
to the large duffle bag
between them.
She was hoping
to avoid
a tearful goodbye
just didn’t want to
start off
drained of emotion.
Both girls sat inside
on the hard
plastic chairs
talking about nothing
important
just time consuming
chit chat,
neither one
wanting to touch on
the subject of her
departure.
They both stopped
talking
when through the
large window
they saw a bus
pull up in front
with Los Angeles
showing as it’s
destination.
Both girls stood up
carried the large duffle
over to the driver
who stowed it
under the bus
her friend
broke the silence
with a
“Well”
“I guess this is it”
trying hard
to keep her composure
“OH”
“Don’t get sloppy on me”
“You’ll be down”
“To Visit”
“Right”
her friend
nodding yes
fighting to hold back
the tears
she’s really wanting
to let flow.
She gives her friend
half a hug
slings her backpack
over her left shoulder
and climbs the stairs
on to the bus
she takes a seat
looking down
on her friend
who’s standing there
with a dying smile
looking up at her
with this
something unsaid look
in her eyes
as a late arriving passenger
runs up to the bus,
the driver climbs down
from his chair
and takes his luggage
and begins to
stow it
under the bus,
but her friend’s
wanting eyes
are just too much
for her to ignore
she stands up
and starts to
get out of her seat
and as she does
she can see
through the window
the happiness
pouring out of
her friend’s face
as she makes her way
to her
and then
tightly hugs her
as both girls cry
and laugh
at the same time.
The driver slips past
the two girls
and boards the bus
not wanting to look
to closely at them
having seen this act
play out before
fearful
of what lies ahead
for this naive
young lady.
She pulls the front
of her shirt up
to wipe the dust
from her eyes
as she approaches
the bus
revealing her midriff
for the first time
to the California sun,
she boards
tries to get comfortable
in her all too familiar seat
when she feels
a pair of eyes
on her
she turns
expecting to see
that drunken navy man
that has been checking her out
since Nevada
but is pleasantly surprised
to see the little girl
standing their
with an out stretched hand
holding a very bruised
common desert flower
her mom speaks
“She thinks you saved her”
“From the baby dinosaur”
she gives the mom a nod
and a big hero smile
for the little girl
as she takes the desert rose
from the little girl
and puts it in her hair
the bashful little girl
just giggles and runs off
down the aisle to her seat.
She starts to feel the toll
from the numerous hours
on the road
she tries to get some sleep
just a few more hours
and she’ll roll-up on Hollywood
but the excitement
of the new start
and that non-stop
hum of fear
constantly living
in the back round
of her mind,
what if
she thinks
it doesn’t work out?
But that thought
trails off as she see’s
a mile marker for Hollywood
and the dreams of youth
push all her fears away
at least for the moment
and with her nose
pressed against the
vibrating glass
of the bus window
sleep begins
to take hold
for the first time
since walking out
her front door
with her backpack,
large duffle
and a need
for a major
location change.
She starts to wake up
and stops herself
from opening her eyes
not sure at first
where she’s waking up at
till the familiar smell
of that refrigerated air
is what reminds her
that she really did it
turned her plan
into an action,
she opened her eyes
sat up in her seat
and pulled out
a small
spiral notebook
with a black pen
sticking out
of the middle
of it
and opens it to
a dog eared page
that had a list,
on the top of
that page
with a header entitled
“Once in Hollywood”
and then
a numbered list
she looks down
at her list
at number 1 was
“Find a place to stay”
with a big asterisk
next to it
“Get a job”
at number 2
and then a bunch
of little things
that look like
they were added
just so she’d have
enough things
to constitute a list
and then the
very last item
written in was
“Get Sunglasses”
with a long line
taking it to
number three.
She had thought about
changing into
something sexy
in the bathroom
she wanted to
look Hot
when she stepped
off the bus
like in a rock video,
Mid-West girl
transformed into
Hot young starlet
as if just crossing
the California boarder
started the metamorphosis
and then pulling up
under the Hollywood sign
signaled the completion
of the transformation,
but she had forgotten
to take the clothes
and shoes
out of her duffle
at the last stop
which bothered her
less and less
as she got closer
she was tired
in need of a shower
and feeling
far from sexy
right now.
She looks back outside
so many cars
most with only
the driver in them
what a waste
she thinks
she continues
looking out the window
as the bus
pulls off the freeway
and on to the
surface streets
she’s looking around
trying to find
some kind of
famous landmarks
but everything outside
looks so average
to her
she leans over the aisle
to an older lady
quietly knitting
some sort of
long blue scarf
which seems strange
to her
being summer
and asks her
“This is Hollywood”
“Right?”
“Yes dear, it is”
the old lady says
without even looking up,
she looks back out
the window
then back at the old lady
notices the blue scarf
has big white letters
spelling out
“L.A. Dodgers”
And then asks
“I don’t see any stars”
“On the sidewalks”
“Or any famous streets”
the old lady looks up
“We’re in North Hollywood”
“Not West Hollywood”
“That’s a good”
”6 or 7 miles from here”
Damn,
I didn’t know there was
more than one Hollywood
she replies
as she starts to gather
all her stuff
as the driver calls out
“Next stop, Hollywood station”
not feeling the need
to add the “North” prefix
the bus rolling up
to a stop
she files off with
all the other passengers
waiting besides the bus
as the driver
sorts through the luggage
she watches him
wrestle free
her large duffle bag
and in a very
undramatic fashion
throw the large bag
at her feet
she grabs the bag
with one hand
starts by dragging it
only able to get it
off the ground
after picking up
a little forward momentum,
she hadn’t expected to
be dropped off
so far away from
Mann’s Chinese Theater
she looks around herself
once she reaches
the sidewalk
expecting something more
than just a lot of
average looking people
bustling around
trying to get on with
their average lives
she still couldn’t believe
she never checked
the distance from the
Greyhound bus station
to Mann’s on
Hollywood Blvd,
she starts walking down
West Magnolia Blvd
backpack
on her left shoulder
right arm
half carrying
half dragging
her oversized duffle
and even though
she is dead tired
her clothes
are sticking to
her body
and she has
never had
so much uncertainty
in her future
at any time
in her life
she just can’t help
but smile
as she
puts her head down
and slowly
makes her way
towards
Hollywood Boulevard…
 
     Tom Allen…08-13-2017…