So, there we were, a frozen December night in Tulsa, with our faces pressed against the cold, dirty glass, staring at our empty bus. The Greyhound station was small. The movies had gotten worse – instead of Billy Bob Thornton, we were now trying to avoid looking at the screen as an estrogen-soaked Lifetime movie cackled in the background.
Olivier & I went outside while I shivered & cursed. The Greyhound employee inside had informed us that we would be stranded until 3:30am, when the next bus for Amarillo, TX was due to arrive. If we could get a seat on that bus. We tried to come up with some sort of plan to get ourselves out of Tulsa. What we came up with was… jack shit.
We went back inside & ran into the kid with the Hari Krishna hair. “I saw a bar down the street,” he said. “I really like beer. I make my own brews at home.”
Olivier & I smiled & nodded politely. “Yeah,” I said. “Beer is good.”
I looked down & saw a little man with a face much too round & chubby for his small body sitting in the corner. He was wearing green pajamas with the Mountain Dew logo all over them. Standing next to him was the scary Erik Estrada. I noticed that he, too, was wearing pajamas.
“Check them out,” I said to Olivier. “Do you suppose that they’re some sort of gang?”
We looked around. There were 3 guys standing in the corner that had just walked in from the street. Everyone pretended not to see them. They were wasted, belligerent & seemed to be looking for something violent that no one else wanted them to find.
The hippies were sitting in a circle on the floor with the Rasta Man & the Iggy Pop lookalike, who was busy telling his new friends all about his knitting. Now he wore not only his grandma afghan poncho, but several knitted pouches hung from his neck in all sorts of tacky, parrot-like colors.
“I made this one between St. Louis & Tulsa,” he said, holding one up with pride. “It’s to hold my cell phone. I made this orange one right after, so I could have something handy to hold my smokes.”
I wondered what he had against pockets.
“Check out my pant legs,” the male hippy said. “They’re all crunchy & we haven’t even gotten to Frisco, yet.”
We drank vending machine soda & squeezed ourselves into 2 uncomfortable metal chairs next to a woman who was taking up the rest of the row with her baggage & bulk. She made strange sounds & weird smells wafted all around her. I leaned on Olivier’s shoulder. I fell in & out of sleep, lifting my head from time to time to wipe the thick thread of drool connecting my face to his jacket. I realized that I was slobbering & snoring loudly. My hair had gotten greasy over the past couple of days. My clothes were dirty. In this crowd, in this place, no one noticed.
I stood up. “I’ll be right back,” I said. “I’m off to the bathroom.”
I walked in & found 2 stalls built on a dirty concrete floor. Piss, toilet paper & tampon wrappers lined my path to a horrifying porcelain petri dish.
Sitting there, not really enjoying this time alone, I was interrupted mid-stream when someone else entered the bathroom. At first, I barely noticed, assuming it was likely that some other woman had to piss at 2am.
“Shawna,” a deep voice said. He was just on the other side of the door.
“No,” I said, from inside my dirty toilet stall. “Shawna’s not here.”
“Shawna, get the fuck out now, or I’m leaving without you,” he said.
“I… am… not… SHAWNA,” I said, wondering if I was about to be murdered. He cursed, then exited the room.
So, Shawna, whoever you are, wherever you are, your boyfriend is an asshole.
I went back out & told Olivier about Shawna’s cockbite boyfriend. “Man,” he said. “St. Louis was bad, but this place is so much worse. I’m afraid to think of where we’ll end up next.”
That was when the Amazons came blustering through the door of the bus station. Two black women, each one over six feet tall, blew into the room from the bus that had just arrived. Each one of them dragged in a confused looking toddler.
“No heat on the mother fucking bus!” One of them leaned down to get nose-to-nose with the security guard. “You get my babies on a bus with heat… YOU HEAR ME?”
We all heard. Everyone looked away, even the security guard. No one wanted to incur the wrath of the Frozen Amazons, who now sat on patrol at the door of the bus station, barking at anyone who dared to open it, thus letting winter air inside.
“Man,” Erik Estrada said. “Are we actually going somewhere? Why are we lined up in front of the door, standing around like fucking idiots?”
That was when the Greyhound employee informed us that we would now be leaving. On the same bus that we had arrived in, which had been sitting outside with its engine running for the past 8 hours.
We trotted out to the bus & jumped inside, bouncing around on our seats & whooping like a bunch of 1st graders ready to embark on a field trip to the zoo.
As soon as I sat down, I was asleep & didn’t wake up until we were in Amarillo, TX. It wasn’t exactly the torturous inferno that we had been anticipating. We were surprised that they actually handled our luggage for us – which made us a bit nervous. We were having profound trust issues with these people by this point. The bathrooms were overflowing with stale, swampy shit water, but we managed to find an oasis just across the street.
We could hardly believe our eyes. Snacks? Burritos? No rubbery cafeteria meat? We ran out the door. Inside the tiny restaurant, we found 2 tiny tables & a smiley Mexican man behind the little counter. He was laughing & friendly… we’d forgotten what people look like when they’re not miserable or insane.
Filled with joy once again & spicy breakfast burritos, we boarded the bus to Denver. The driver, a little round bald man, came to each of us – much to our surprise – to ask about our destinations, giving us an estimated time of arrival. He was making jokes & being kind to the passengers, all the while letting us know that if we dicked around, getting drunk & shouting, that we’d be “shit out of luck & off the bus”. We liked him immediately, which wasn’t something that we had been accustomed to with our previous bus drivers. Ditching us, snapping at us or rolling their eyes at us had become commonplace. This guy was like… some kind of freak.
Olivier looked over at me & patted my thigh. “See? Things are finally looking up,” he said. “Soon, we’ll be in Colorado & all of this shit will be behind us, then we can laugh about it.”
Looking back, it is all quite laughable. It turns out, traveling on Greyhound can be much, much worse…