Somewhere on Interstate 80
“Farewell ye Greyhound where I suffered so much.” The words of Allen Ginsberg echo in my mind. I stand on cracked blacktop, outside an aged, caramel-colored bus station. I stare, aimlessly, watching my cross-country chariot fade into a hazy veil of diesel dust. The gray diesel fog delineates and floats away. Eighty hours of unbearable stench, eighty hours of hunger, and eighty hours of vertical attempts at sleep. Forty hours out. Forty hours back.
In the now vacant lot, I notice how the wind causes my shoulder length hair to entangle with my overgrown, Amish-inspired beard. How my black and orange striped backpack slowly slides down my slopping shoulder. How kamikaze black flies dive at my sweat-clogged pores. How the crisp, clean smell of a Midwest spring cleanses my soul. It was good to be home.
Kara and I board the dark, dank bus in the predawn bleakness of an early March morning. I cautiously glance down the aisle, desperately hoping to discover a pair of empty seats amongst those occupied by the sleeping dead. I am a hippy experiencing a seismic shift, yearning to be a yippee instead. The smell, that god-awful stench of being human fills the cabin. I check the destination marquee, expecting it to read “Calcutta.” “San Francisco,” it glowed. I had no choice but to find a seat.
Two empty seats right next to the latrine beacon us to the back. We trip over outstretched limbs sprawling into the aisle as we make our way to the back. We flop into our dust-filled seats and take a deep breath. Our nostrils are singed by the sour scent of stale fluorescent pink urinal cakes. This is not what I expected. “Where is my hippie trail?” I wonder. The bus pulls out, Iowa City fades and San Francisco hovers on the horizon – a mere forty hours away.
Somewhere in the depths of the night I am abruptly awoken from my cautious slumber. “Pit-stop,” I mumble. The bus needs refueling and the toilet could use a refresher. We are ordered to do our time within the confines of the Cheyenne bus station.
“Shit hole.” This is the adjective of choice when describing the station. If you think the bus smells bad, try smelling a bus station. This is the place where all buses dispense their collection of smells, sewage, and toxins. “Why is Greenland melting?” Come to the Cheyenne station and bear witness to the cause of global warming.
In order to keep your mind off the smell, the station offers visitors an array of amenities and family-friendly attractions. For example, there are rusted steel benches with sharp edges for two to nap on. You also have an opportunity to freshen up in the fully equipped bathroom, stocked with vomit encrusted sinks, dented stainless steel mirrors, and shrapnel cluttered showers. If none of these options are of interest to you, you can idle the hours away at the grill. Although the menu offers a wide array of selections, most are adequately described as a gourmet gathering of garbage, pounded into a petite patty, nuked until cancerous, and served on a stale, penicillin glazed roll. Bon appetit!
Back on the bus I notice several new passengers have embarked. There is the quartet smoking pot near the bathroom, the runaway adolescent involved in a questionable petting session with her much older seat mate, and the drunk with his face plastered against the window. Then there are the three elementary aged boys claiming the seats in front of me, turned around and staring at me from over the seat backs. Dirty faces. Dust speckled blonde hair, bangs masking satanic eyes. Green globs of germ-filled mucus congregating in their crust covered nostrils before slowly leaking towards their Kool-Aid coated upper lip. The high-pitched shrill of a prepubescent voice pierces my inner-ear. This was too much. Somewhere in the sands of Nevada I was to surrender my soul, and sanity, to the Three Sons of Satan.
“What’s your name?” the oldest dirt-ball inquires.
“How-cough-cough-cough-old are-cough-you?”, the youngest hacks into my face.
“Why is your hair long? You have long hair. Why is your hair long? She has long hair. Why is your hair long? Your hair is long like hers. Are you in love? Why is your hair long? Are you a girl or a boy? You’re a girl!”, the middle terror fires at me with machine gun speed and hyperventilating excitement. His eyes light up and he lets out a gleeful giggle. He points his dirt filled, overgrown fingernail at Kara’s startled face and declares, “You love a girl!” If ever Kara and I had thought about having children of our own, this living birth control made us both instantly celibate.
“Are you a boy, or a girl?”, the youngest persists.
“You’re a girl!” concludes the oldest.
“Girls have long hair, giiiiiiiirllllllll.” The third one starts to sing, “girls have long hair and you’re a girl, girls have long hair and you’re a girl.” The others join in and the three of them sway back and forth.
That was it. I had had enough. I lost it and prematurely end their jingle. Grabbing them by their wax filled ears, I stuff them into the overhead compartments, slamming the door shut with a sincere sense of satisfaction.
Of course I didn’t really do that. But the thought did cross my mind. Instead I maturely put on my headphones, turned up the volume, and kicked the seat in front of me hard enough to put it well beyond the upright position.
A little over a week later, we pull into the black top parking lot of the Iowa City station. Kara and I gather our belongings and dash down the metal steps, almost falling out of the bus. We gasp at the fresh air. The staleness of the bus is now a possession of the past.
I stand where the bus had minutes before been. My long dirty-blond hair blows in the wind. I watch, silent, as the bus bounces down Burlington Street. I snap a picture, mentally calling it, “The End.” I feel older. Somehow different, somehow changed. I feel, surprisingly, refreshed. Cleansed, perhaps spiritual. The bus fades into the horizon, leaving only a cloud of diesel dust. It quickly disseminates. Fades away, into the past. Gone.
“Farewell ye Greyhound,” I say with a respectful and solemn nod of my head. I feel the dirt harden on my skin. I need to shower, perhaps cut my hair. A plane flies high above, leaving a long-lasting jet stream in its wake. I turn, and walk home.