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Friday, January 18, 2008

Bus fumes and cheese curds!

The bus station lobby smelled of the end of a long August workweek. I had turned off my typewriter and left the law office early to catch the bus soon leaving Spokane. I had ample time to catch my breath and absorb my surroundings. I knew it would be noisy and there’d be no place to sit.

I could pick out the airmen leaving the base for the weekend even though they wore civilian clothes. They looked eager in spite of their pale ears protruding from their regulation haircuts. Overtired children with their spent parents pushed and pulled against each other. Long skirted hippie girls sat on the floor. Pop cans dropped down shoots in machines. Pay phones buzzed while I watched the faces of the callers—some slack jawed, eyebrows raised and others with the phone cradled on their shoulders lighting a cigarette. For sure everyone was sweating when the afternoon sun met the handprints on the windows as I was inched my way to the door hoping for a good seat on the shady side of the bus.

Black curls divided by a faded bandana fought for position on his head. Resting against a tie-dyed backpack with a large duffle at his feet, he was alone as he leaned against the wall. He could easily have been part of any of the clusters of the hippies scattered around the station. I could see him watching me even though he might have been mistaken for a hitchhiker who stopped for a nap in a bus station. As I moved into the makeshift line I smelled patchouli mixed with clover and warm milk. He was standing behind me. We appeared to be a very civilized line of travelers, each followed the one in front, climbed the steps, expeditiously navigated the narrow aisle and plopped down in the first available bus seat. A seat by the window was mine and I began unfolding myself when I heard the zipper of a backpack. He had taken the seat next to me and began stuffing his belongings under and around himself. Then he pulled off his bandana and ruffled up his matted hair. He produced something yellow from another pocket. Offering me a bite of cheddar he laughingly said he was a ‘cheese freak.’ Any kind of cheese made him happy. He wasn’t particular, as long as he could travel and eat cheese. From his bloodshot eyes I suspected that a bit of grass made him happy too.

By the time the bus had crossed the border we had shared enough details about our lives for him to ask me to rest my head on his shoulder. My gypsy heart pleaded with my highly developed brain to just ease up enough to find rest from the race I ran each day. As predicted, my brain won and my head stayed upright. After all, I had to do what was right and proper. It was safer that way. So he rested his head on my shoulder until it was time for me to get off.

Turning to wave goodbye at the bus terminal, I saw that he had fallen asleep with his head on the window by where I had just been sitting. Seemingly his road continued on across the mountains. My road took its own direction. This many years later I still wonder about life and its myriad possibilities. Can we recognize the right road by strolling down the cheese aisle?


'Life is neither a romance nor an invitation to dinner.'

I've written these words for Sunday Scribbling's prompt 'fellow travelers.' Read about more travelers here.
The quote above was repeated by a friend who was a professor in Poland. Denied by the government from leaving Poland he did move to Canada in the early 90's. This is what his uncle told him.

13 comments:

Granny Smith said...

This is an outstanding post! I was there with you and the myriad cast, and definitely with you as you debated comfort against propriety.

Your blog is the first thing I read after breakfast (except when I am out of reach of the internet).

Marianne said...

hmmmmm, I think I'm going to have to admit to just a wee romantic bit in my soul... I love this post. I 'saw' it all, I smelled it, I could hear it, and oh how I loved those dark curls.... :^)
(I was a much more reckless daughter, heh)

tumblewords said...

I know the bus depot in Spokane, the airmen that traveled to the closest arms and the cheese factory. Your descriptive words take me back and around again. Wonderful post! And yes, I think the right road could begin in the cheese aisle.

Shari said...

Very descriptive. I wish I could write that way. The old photos are wonderful.

barbara said...

Beautifully written.

Inland Empire Girl said...

I know the bus depot in Spokane also. Very well-written post. I didn't travel myself on the bus, but my brother often needed to be picked up and my grandmother always traveled on the bus. Did you work in Spokane?

Chris said...

When I grow up I want to write like you!! This story was wonderful, and I think I'm in love with Mr. Cheese. The last line was nothing short of brilliance.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, you took me there ... Thank YOU!

gautami tripathy said...

Very vivid post. So much to think, so much to ponder over..

Old Wom Tigley said...

Stunningly done.. I could see in all in my mind.. I alsolike the pictures, the Greyhound bus was a bute.

Beatriz's suitcase contents said...

What a beautiful post! I am very glad that I came by to visit.

Julie Schuler said...

Really wonderful. All the right details. I love "clover and warm milk". Perfection.

Jo said...

This is a beautifully, beautifully written story, so tight, so evocative, you have a real talent for shorts like these....it made me want more.