1.
(as told to B.)
(We are talking about the Cleveland bus station here.) It was super weird and beautiful before they began construction. It's huge! The bathrooms in particular, they were up top those long curving stairs. Never was in the men's facilities but the woman's bathroom consisted of two rooms which in square footage equaled more than my apartment. The first room had old fucked up mirrors all along one wall which usually had two or three travelers or street ladies trying to smooth down their rough edges. The other room had all the stalls, some with sinks in them. Once coming in from NYC for a visit with several bundles in my pocket, I was waiting FOREVER for my ride. I finally called, they had just left to come get me, meaning it would be at least 45 minutes. I trudge back up to the bathroom and while maintaining a conversation with a woman who was combing her hair (the entire time I was in there) I locked myself in a stall with a sink, found out the faucet didn't work, found one of those toys from the quarter machines (you know with the plastic bubbles) took out the toy, went out, filled it with water, went back into the stall and fixed. I went back out to wait on the street for my ride (can't smoke inside), the guy who had been chatting me up (older street black man) once again asks me if I party, looks at my eyes and proceeds to tell me his whole life story up to the point in which he had ruined every vein in his body. Then he starts hinting that he'd love a taste, I'm thinking that I have several hundred dollars worth in my pocket and I chat away until my ride appears.

2.
(remembered several years later)
Things in my life are getting stale. The solution I choose, as always, is to take a trip alone. Greyhound has some kind of deal so I buy a bunch of tickets and take off. All I want to do when I first get on in Cleveland is sleep but its near Christmas and the soldiers are going home. They all have liquor and most want to talk. Thankfully, very few of them want to talk to me as I have just chopped my hair and look very fucked up. I try to pretend that things are not falling apart for me back in Ohio as we head for Houston. Almost a three day ride, at least how they route me on this trip.

Then it happens, a lonely soldier can't find anyone else to talk to so he starts yapping at me. At least he has a lot of whiskey, we talk about heavy metal and he tells me about his girlfriend who is breaking up with him but he's going to see her anyway and he wants to kill the guy she's seeing now. I tell him this may not be the most interesting way to spend his Christmas but he's determined. I'm glad when he gets out and for the night I have a seat to myself.
The endless part begins around the morning of the second day, where all you see are white lines and moving landscapes through the window. Totally alone in your own head - if you talk to someone else you can make up a new life at a moments notice. I am progressively; a runaway wife, on the run from something unmentionable, moving to a new city to look for work, nothing at all.

The third day is almost unbearable. Everyone smells and snores and farts and we are on some kind of local which stops every fucking 35 minutes. The bus fills with rural workers, mostly Mexican who are silent and a heavy exhaustion fills the bus. The sun is blinding, Texas is harsh lighting with endless back roads.

Houston is disappointing as destinations often are. My friend (who I have not seen in 2 years) and I can find no common places. Fuck we were roommates for over a year, where do these things go? He shows me the city in silence and I crave movement.

I head for San Francisco. But I have to go through LA which brings me through Tucson where I've never been. I make myself wake at dawn so I can see how it looks and I know I'll be back. During the following night almost everyone in the last 10 seats on the bus is drinking. The bus driver doesn't say anything but gets increasingly nervous. I discreetly down my pint - I don't want to party I want to sleep. The action picks up. As we enter the highway system near LA the driver, I think, just wants to get away from these loud assholes. He speeds up. I mean we are going really fast. He has to change lanes a lot and we start to swerve. This is when the back of the bus gets very, very loud. I had never experienced a bus revolt before and the thing I learned is that the driver has the advantage. Always remember that the motherfucker has their foot on the gas pedal that is driving your body down the highway. The more the passengers yell and throw things (like empty beer cans) the faster the bus may go. It was weird, this guy refused to look or speak to anyone on the bus, he was gonna drive this bus home as quickly as possible and that was that. I've been in fast moving cars plenty of times, a friend in high school loved to break a hundred and twenty. But this was a fucking bus full of people. As people started to realize this guy was not going to slow down until he got into the terminal it got much quieter and I heard the woman in front of me praying. He didn't lay off until we hit the exit. The ride got even more surreal as we drove down all these fucked up streets full of street fires, you know, people standing around 50 gallon drums filled with trash to keep warm. And then we drove inside the building and he finally stopped. Chaos like that always makes passengers somehow bind together so people were standing around blah blahing everywhere.

I sat in a chair with a TV and ate a stale sandwich and then saw someone collecting names for an express to SF. Get em on it. The bus was totally full and many/most had been on the other bus. But it was late we'd be there by morning and everyone finally just wanted to sleep.

But I forgot my bag was on the other bus which was to arrive three hours later. HAHA. I sit in the open station (which no longer exists) and watch street people action and pigeons shitting everywhere. I thought California was supposed to be warm? I go to find breakfast.

This visit was great, my friend and I go see two to three movies a day (we figure out how to avoid ushers and only pay once) I meet tons of amazing people and see old friends who want me to move back to this weird city. Eventually I'm out of cash and knowing I don't want to stay I head once again for the Greyhound. Another 21/2 day ride.

The last part of the trip is silent for me, I talk to noone. This creates a beautiful space around me for the entire ride. Time is endless and incredibly boring. I think often about getting out at some town we stop at and I check out the nearest liquor store or bar at every opportunity. But I know I would be leaving a mess in Ohio and although I ultimately do leave a mess in Ohio I am thinking at this time that maybe I can go back. Since I've changed through movement, my situation there might have also. Obviously, I'm still quite naive. I arrive 6 hours early through the chance occurrence of running into an acquaintance with a car at 4 am downtown Cleveland (I have to drive). I wake my lover to discover he has 15 stitches in his face and a black eye. Somehow this seemed a fitting ending.

- Melinda