The only seat left was next to a strange old woman, but I had to take it. What else was I gonna do? I had to get out of here. So I tucked my head low and chin tight and wiggled my way past her knobby knees.
“’Cuse me” I said. I put my tattered book into the seat. Its cracked binding long ago showing white like her hair and its pages were not staying together…kinda like her knobby knees. I tried not to look. That’s not where a man like me wanted to go.
Her eyes were more gray than blue. I wondered what she went thru in her living.
Unlike most little old ladies, she didn’t look up. Didn’t say hello son, how are you? She didn’t smile and show her dentures, or even grin. I’m certain she has dentures.
Well, honestly, how many on this stinkin’ bus are going to grin? Maybe they’re gettin’ out of town like I am. Had enough. And enough is enough.
I put my bowling bag in the overhead. Its worn out leather looked like I felt. Guess I scraped it too many times … after too many beers. It made me smile. Didn’t have my lucky bowling ball in it now though. How I managed to roll two days of clothes in it, I’ll not know either.
Of course, my ball’s not so lucky. How I cracked it last night, I can’t remember. This morning, it looked like a geode split in two.
And Gracie. Hm. She ain’t had no patience for me lately. No woman of Grace these days.
“Every one sit down please,” the driver said.
“Geez…how long have I been standin’?” I shook my head’s fog and closed the hatch.
“Three minutes,” the old woman said. Or at least that’s the sound of words that came from below and beside me.
I sat and straightened my jeans. Patted off a splotch of dirt. Must have gotten it from somewhere last night. Probably in the alley. Yeah… Behind the bowling alley…in the dark alley. I let out a small laugh and noticed the old woman’s head tilted my way. Her eyes were closed. And her mouth. A woman’s mouth closed. Now that’s a sight to see. I laughed again. I saw a fold begin in her eyelids and one cheek crunched upward in her wrinkles. She was peeking my way.
The bus rocked once as the emergency brake was released and it was put into low gear.
Outside the window, I saw the fog lifting.
Concrete bus station. Empty already. People couldn’t wait to get whomever on the bus for out of town and pull out to leave.
"This is the last I’ll see of this town."
I must have spoken out loud. The old woman turned my way and looked right into me. I mean she looked right into me.
“Leaving huh? Hope it’s for the better.”
Me too, I thought. I didn’t say anything to her, just nodded. I softened and I didn’t know exactly why. There was something familiar in her eyes. I had seen eyes like that somewhere else. Somewhere…
I turned to look out the window. Oddly, my chest felt tight and my throat felt strangled.
I rubbed my palms on my jeans. They were so damp I almost made mud where the dirt was.
I took a breath in and turned to the woman.
“You goin’ and coming back….or just goin?” she said.
“Don’t know huh?” She said without judgment; it was as if the unknown was somewhere.
She turned away and looked straight. I picked up my book from beside me.
“Walt Whitman?” She asked, turning my way again.
“Yeah, I do,” I said.
“Hm” was all she said back. And then, “Why you leaving son?”
“No reason to stay.”
“Reason waiting for you wherever you going?” She asked
“Not really. Dunno.”
“Hm.” She took out a tangerine, peeled it without saying a word. Tore her napkin in half and
offered me some plugs.
I took it—it smelled fresh.
“Well,” she said. “I’ve traveled near and far. There’s always something waiting wherever we go.”
“Yeah,” I said. “There’s something left behind too.” I felt myself open up and started thinking of Gracie. Don’t know why we fussed. Don’t now know why I left in such a hurry.
“I like buses,” the old woman said with a smile. “They give us plenty of time to think.”
She opened her satchel and pulled out a book. It was Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman. “He’s good.” She said, and she bit into a plug.
The juice sprayed onto her finger and she wiped it off.