Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Judgement.


When you don’t know what a man is thinking, you judge him on his actions.

Drunk, he threw his alarm clock at the wall and smiled when he heard the familiar sound of the battery case breaking off.  He picked up his cell phone to throw it, but paused and saw her text message from earlier in the day:  “How are you doing?  I’m worried about you.”  The girl was clearly concerned.  He sat down and texted her back, saying that he’s a piece of shit and worthless.  He thought it was true.  She texted him back, saying that it wasn't.  He dialled her and she picked up.  She was worried.  She asked him to come over so that she could take care of him.  He said okay, he would be on his way.  He hung up and looked for his flask of whiskey.  It wasn’t where it usually was.  He threw everything off of the dresser out of frustration.  Then there it was on the ground, among the mess.  He grabbed it and shook it to see if it was full.  It was half full.  Or half empty.  Good enough.  He took a swig and kicked his garbage can over for good measure.  Semen-encrusted tissues, old newspapers, banana peels and pieces of plastic junk joined the clutter.

He put his sunglasses on and grabbed his flask and his cell phone and 5 dollars and his keys and some Kleenex tissues and stuffed them all in his pockets.  He put his shoes on and paused to look at his friends lying on the futon in the living room.  They were asleep.  He took a swig.

He pressed a button and waited for the elevator to appear.  Once in the elevator he stared at himself in the mirror.  He tried to see if he could see his eyes through his sunglasses but he couldn’t.  Mirrored lenses.  His eyes were now mirrors, and all he saw was himself staring back at himself staring back at himself staring back at himself.

He left the building and took another swig of his flask.  It didn’t burn going down anymore, but he felt warmer.  It was dark, and the people on the sidewalk were frightened of him.  He knew they were.  Their faces shifted and the women clung to their men.  He liked how they avoided him so methodically.  The five-metre bubble surrounding him amused him.  He smiled.  He staggered down the ten blocks to her apartment.

He rang the buzzer and she came downstairs and greeted him.  He followed her up the stairs.  He sloppily took his shoes off and plopped down on the couch and picked up a cat and hugged it.  It squirmed out of his hands and ran away.  He stared at the ground and felt pathetic.  She told him he wasn’t and offered him evidence supporting her theory.  He tried to deny it but he knew a lot of it was true, he wasn’t a complete piece of shit.  He had done a great thing once or twice in his life at least.

He asked her to hug him over and over again, and each time she did.  He asked her if she loved him and she hesitated but then she said yes.  He smiled and said nothing.  He was drunk but he still remembered that most people wouldn’t ever dare tell a drunk what he didn’t want to hear.  He started to talk about what was bugging him but then he couldn’t.  It was too hard.  He knew she wouldn’t really understand.  It would get awkward.  He started to feel like a burden.  Going there was a mistake.  He considered leaving but he was exhausted and he knew it would just worry her even more.  It would only make both of them feel worse.

He asked if he could go to sleep and she said yes.  He took his clothes off and awkwardly stumbled into her bed.  He shut his eyes.  It felt good to lie there.  She took her clothes off and joined him soon after.  He grabbed her wrist and draped her arm over his torso.  “I want to be little spoon,” he said.  

She let him be little spoon.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Man in the Yellow Shirt (Part 4)

¿Está vivo?” I asked. Is he alive? Gonzalez widened his eyes momentarily at that, and exploded into raucous laughter. The other policemen laughed with him. “¿Habla francés o inglés?” I asked. They continued laughing.

Frustrated, I shook my head and looked up at the fluorescent lights. Jen and I were sitting in dusty office chairs in the Managua National Police Force’s headquarters. The walls were painted a chartreuse yellow that made me nauseous. We were constantly shivering; the building was over-air-conditioned and freezing. The cops didn’t seem to mind. Some of them looked busy, but the majority of them hovered around us and made small talk to each other. They were like school-children; they persistently made fart noises at each other, mocked my Spanish, and threw racist insults at Jen.

Every time I tried to stand up and say something in protest, Gonzalez and his partner Rodriguez – a man who never laughed or smiled, sported an imposing mustache, and frequently furrowed his eyebrows at me – placed their hands on my shoulders and gently forced me back onto the chair. After I did it enough times, they resigned themselves to keeping their hands on my shoulders, which I repeatedly tried to shake off. Jen and I barely said anything to each other while we waited. She asked me a few times if I was okay and I would answer with a numb, faraway expression on my face that no, I was not really okay.

After what seemed like an hour, Gonzalez and his partner motioned for us to get up and follow them. We walked with them through the building and into the unit’s homicide detective’s office. The office was small and painted the same disgusting chartreuse yellow as the room we had just left. The detective was sitting in a computer chair. He was built like a truck, but he slouched to the point that his neck was touching the top of the chair. He didn’t bother to introduce himself. He just pointed at a computer monitor in front of him and asked me to identify anyone who looked familiar to me.

He began scrolling through pictures that he’d taken of criminals arrested in the past. I said, “No,” every time a new man showed up. It was an asinine task. After a while, I let out a laugh in spite of myself. They all looked the same. Every one of them had a mustache, and almost all of them wore wife-beaters. I told the detective that they all looked the same to me; he asked me to describe the men who robbed me in great detail. As I told the story of my mugging, he looked into my eyes, feigning attention, and sporadically glimpsed at the computer screen. I couldn’t help but notice that whenever he caught me making eye contact with him and not looking at the monitor, he would click on the computer mouse as many times as he could in order to go through the pictures faster. I couldn’t tell if he was naïve enough to really believe that I’d been tricked, or if he was just blatantly trying to get rid of me. I decided to just stare at him until he was done. He rapidly went through the rest of the photos. The detective said something to Gonzalez, who tapped me on the shoulder and motioned for us to follow him.

As we walked out I turned around to see what the detective had been up to before we’d bothered him. He was playing solitaire.

Gonzalez led us out of the detective’s office and into his own office. Rodriguez stood in the doorway and watched us. We sat in front of Gonzalez’s desk; I had my arms crossed and was still shivering. “Frío,” I told Gonzalez. His face showed no emotion. “Demasiado frío,” Jen added helpfully. Too cold. He gave her a weak smile but said nothing. He turned on his computer and looked out the window while it loaded.

His computer was slow. It took a long time.

Once his computer was turned on, he began asking me questions about the mugging. I answered to the best of my abilities but was somewhat reluctant to cooperate fully – I was still in shock at what they had done to the man in the yellow shirt – but I knew I needed the police report in order to apply for a new passport at the embassy. After I answered all of his questions, he printed out a copy of the police report and stamped it. He handed it to me and told me to sign it. I did. He signed the space next to my name. My sloppy signature looked like beautiful calligraphy compared to his own childish signature. He told me to bring it to the Canadian embassy. I nodded.

Jen asked Gonzalez if we could leave the police station now. He told her that there was one last thing for us to do before going. Rodriguez led us outside to a concrete walkway. The cracked concrete slabs led to a small jail. Rodriguez asked me to follow him but insisted that Jen stay with Gonzalez. I shrugged and followed him to the jail. He opened up a slot in the front door and asked me to peer into it. I did.

The man in the yellow shirt was in there. Except his yellow shirt wasn’t really yellow anymore. It was a mixture of colours and textures, of magenta, crimson, sand and soil. There were pieces of it missing. However, if he hadn’t been wearing the shirt I wouldn’t have recognized him. His face was brutally swollen. His eyes hid inside the puffy skin of his temples and cheeks. His jaw was set an awkward angle, and his leg, broken at the tibia, sagged away from him. There was sand and dirt in his wounds. He hopped a little on his good leg in order to keep himself balanced. Rodriguez yelled something and the man in the yellow shirt shuffled around until he was standing at a 90 degree angle from us. I looked back at Rodriguez and said, “No. Este hombre no robó.” This was not the man who robbed me. He was not pleased at my statement. He did an about turn and rushed back to Gonzalez and Jen at the other end of the concrete walkway.

I followed him back. Rodriguez shoved me towards Gonzalez and motioned for Jen to follow him. “It’s the guy they tortured,” I told her. “He’s in there. Rodriguez wants you to say that he’s the robber.” Rodriguez heard his name and pointed a finger in my face and screamed at me. I didn’t know what he was saying, but I assumed that he was telling me to shut up so that I wouldn’t bias Jen’s opinion on whether the man in the yellow shirt was a criminal or not.

Rodriguez asked Jen to walk in front of him to the jail. I watched as he stared at her ass and legs when she peered into the slot. It made me livid but I was too exhausted to even consider doing something about it. I turned away and looked at a pile of rocks leaning against a building. Then, Gonzalez spoke up.

Este hombre ha sido detenido antes. Es un ladrón y un mentiroso. Ha luchado a policía. El me ha luchado,” he said. This man has been arrested before. He is a thief and a liar. He has fought police. He has fought me. He smiled when he finished saying the last sentence.

I did not believe him. The urge to grab his pistol and shoot him was overwhelming. “Verdadero?” I asked. True?

Ah, si,” he said, chuckling. “Si.

Jen came back with Rodriguez following closely behind her. Tears rolled down her cheeks. He was still looking at her ass. He looked up and realized that I caught him in the act, but lowered his gaze at her thighs once more before Gonzalez barked, in English, “Come. Walk.”

Rodriguez crossed his arms and stood there, watching us. He furrowed his eyebrows at me again. I furrowed mine back at him. We followed Gonzalez into one end of a building and out the other end, back to the police station’s parking lot. He asked, “¿Quiere ir a la embajada canadiense?” I didn’t know what that meant, but I understood the words embajada and canadiense.

Canadian embassy.

Si,” I said quickly.

Gonzalez pointed at a young, bearded police officer standing next to a gold-coloured SUV. He motioned for us to go inside. I climbed into the front passenger seat next to the police officer. Jen sat in the back. Gonzalez leaned into the open window and told the driver to go to the Canadian embassy. The officer nodded silently.

Gonzalez stepped back and put his hands on his hips. “Goodbye,” he said in accented English. He smiled.

I smiled back.

Va chier mon tabarnak,” I said in French.

The driver stepped on the gas pedal and the SUV lurched out of the parking lot. I could see Gonzalez waving at us in the rear-view mirror. I sighed and slumped into my seat. Everything is going to get better from this moment on, I thought. I’m going to hang out in the embassy, get my passport shit sorted out, and get the fuck out of this hellhole.

As the truck drove onto the on-ramp to the highway, Jen tapped my shoulder from the back.

“Marc? There’s a gun back here,” she said.

I looked back. There was an M-60 machine gun sitting next to her on the backseat. There was a magazine clip in it and though I’d never shot an M-60 in the Canadian military, I immediately recognized that the safety on it was off. The M-60 was pointed right at her.

“Okay, Jen,” I said. “Listen to me carefully. See that little thing sticking out? That lever thing?”

“Can’t you just do it?” she asked. “I’m scared.”

“No, I don’t think this dude’s going to like watching me play around with his gun,” I said. “It’ll be less obvious if you just do it. Just flip that lever there and it’ll be done.”

“You promise it won’t shoot at me?”

“I promise.”

“This one?” she asked pointing at the safety lever. She sounded uneasy.

“Yeah, that one. Flip it up. Make sure it’s up and not down.”

“Will something happen to me if I flip it down?” Her voice cracked.

“No, nothing bad will happen. I swear.”

She fumbled at the safety lever until it finally went up with an audible click. The driver opened his eyes a little wider but didn’t look away from the road. I sighed and put my head in my hands. I looked at my ratty shoes through my fingers. I felt an intense desire to cry but found myself unable to.

After a while, the SUV grinded to a halt in front of a building surrounded by a barbed wire perimeter fence and dozens security cameras. A Canadian flag flew in the front yard of the building. A Nicaraguan man carrying a pump shotgun sat in a cabin on the street side of the fence.

Uno momento por favor,” I told the driver. I got out of the SUV and walked towards the cabin. Jen stayed in the truck.

“Are you open?” I asked the security guard.

“No,” said the guard in accented English. “Open Monday.”

“Okay,” I said, gritting my teeth. “Thanks.”

Discouraged, I walked back to the SUV, trying in vain to keep myself together. I got into the truck and looked at the driver. He looked back at me, waiting for me to say something.

“Can’t your shitty country have embassies that are open on a fucking Saturday?” I asked him. My hands were shaking. He looked at me, unsmiling.

Lo siento,” he said. “No entiendo.

“Yeah, no fucking kidding. None of you do,” I said. “You’re all too busy fighting crime, right? I bet McGruff leaves his machine gun loaded in his backseat, too.”

“Jesus, relax,” Jen said. “He didn’t do anything to you.”

I turned around to face Jen. “I don’t care about this guy. I cannot leave this country. I am stuck here. Until that changes, I’m going to treat this guy however the fuck I want.”

“Okay, but that isn’t going to open the fucking embassy any faster,” she said, rolling her eyes.

I shuddered at the realization that I was going to be stuck in Managua for a while. Two days at least. Probably more than that. Probably even a week. I crossed my arms and looked out the window at the embassy. I wanted nothing more than to be inside of it, to speak to my family, to feel safe again. I’d have slept on the floor if I were allowed to. I’d have starved for the privilege.

Jen asked the driver if he could drive us to a hostel in her Lonely Planet book. He nodded and stepped on the gas again. The ride to the hostel took a long time - he had to drive through the neighbourhood I’d just been mugged in. I couldn’t look out the window. I looked at my shoes again and didn’t look up until the SUV stopped in front of the hostel.

Jen thanked the police officer and we got out of the truck. Jen still had her bags. I had mine, minus my passport, camera, wallet, and money. I kept feeling my pockets just in case I hadn’t really been mugged. Each time I checked, I felt an intense wave of pain at the realization that I wasn’t getting my possessions back. I felt powerless. After remembering that the muggers had put their hands in my pockets, I hastily took my hands out and spit on them and furiously rubbed them against the ground or on my jeans. A family, presumably the owners of the hostel, watched as I did this. They looked amused.

We went inside the hostel and checked out one of the rooms. It had hot water, a rare luxury. We took it. There were no other tourists staying in the building; it would only be us and the family who owned it.

Jen paid for the room and immediately jumped in the shower. I sat on the front steps of the hostel and cradled my face in my hands again. Every time I closed my eyes I saw the man in the yellow shirt through that jail slot, looking back at me but not seeing me. I felt someone put their hand on my shoulder. I looked up and saw a Nicaraguan kid, probably about ten years old. I yelped involuntarily and put my hands up in reflexive defence. He stepped back and said, in English, “I am sorry.”

I realized that he was the hostel owners’ son. “Why are you sad?” he asked.

“Your English is really good,” I said stupidly.

“Thank you.” He smiled. “I go to school. Why are you sad?”

The boy’s grandmother came out to check on him and sat down next to me. For her benefit, I reconstructed the story of my mugging and the events that followed in broken Spanish. It was tough, and I had to ask the boy to help me translate parts of it. They listened impassively until my story was over.

“That’s why I’m sad,” I said.

The boy put his hand on my shoulder and squeezed it.

“It will be okay,” he said.

They both stood up and wordlessly went back into the hostel. I was alone. I shoved my face into my hands again. I thought of the injustice of my being robbed, and then I remembered the man in the yellow shirt and felt like a fool, like a selfish, white, privileged fool. I wondered if he was ever going to get out. I doubted that he would have a normal life afterwards, if he did get out. I wondered if the robbers were happy, and I wished with all of my being that they would die, that they would die an excruciating and dreadful death. And then I remembered that once I got home, my quality of life would be exponentially better than any life those thieves could make for themselves, and I felt guilty again. They would probably die before me, and it wouldn’t necessarily be deserved. Not to mention the man in the yellow shirt. His death in jail, if it came, would be because of me, and he didn’t deserve to die.

I desperately needed to manifest my anguish into tears. I closed my eyes and tried to cry. I couldn’t. I never was able to.

Monday, April 12, 2010

53 Hours (Part 5 of 5)

General disclaimer: If you’re under 18, you probably shouldn’t read this section of 53 Hours. Actually, if you like to pretend that sex, poops and that red stuff in your veins don’t exist or just think that they’re gross in general, you shouldn’t read it, either. And shame on you if you ignore this advice. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!


My stomach made a weird noise. The noise was accompanied by a sharp pain in my gut.

“What was that?” Sarah asked.

“His stomach,” Jen said.

“Yeah,” I said. “It’s probably the spicy-ass spaghetti. I think I need to go to the bathroom.”

“It’s right around the corner, to the left,” Sarah said.

I got up and followed her instructions. The bathroom was too beautiful for a one bedroom apartment. It was pristine. I hope I don’t ruin it, I thought.

I sat down and evacuated my bowels. When I was done, I stood up and turned around. The toilet was filled with shit and blood. There was more blood than shit. I sighed. It had been a few weeks since the last time; I’d hoped for a longer interval.

I wiped myself and flushed, but there was still residue in the toilet from the blood. I looked for some kind of cleaner and found a bottle of Comet on a shelf. I washed my hands before grabbing it. I shook it a few times at the spots of blood, the dry tangy powder gradually covering the reddish dots. I ripped off a few pieces of toilet paper and wiped most of the blood away. I flushed the toilet again. I stared as the last bits of blood flaked off and swirled around and around in a whirlpool of Comet, like cardinals caught in a blizzard. Then the blood disappeared. The toilet was clean.

Somebody scratched their nails on the bathroom door. The noise startled me.

“Did you fall in the toilet or what?” a voice asked. I couldn’t tell if it was Jen or Sarah.

“Yes,” I said.

Nobody answered back.

I washed my hands and came back out to the living room. I was exhausted.

“You okay?” Jen asked.

“Yeah,” I said. “I will be.”

Sarah frowned.

“Was it the you-know-what?” Jen asked.

“Yeah,” I said.

“What’s the you-know-what?” asked Sarah.

“AIDS,” Jen said.

We all broke into fits of laughter.

“Don’t laugh,” I told Sarah, struggling to keep a straight face. “I actually do have AIDS.”

Her laughter stopped immediately and her smile disappeared.

“Just kidding,” I said. Sarah sighed in relief.

“But I have colon cancer, though,” I said. Jen exploded in laughter. Sarah didn’t.

“He’s got a medical condition,” Jen said. “He’s just fucking with you. He shits blood sometimes and they don’t know what it is. I got to witness a surgeon ass-raping him with a camera once.”

“Yeah,” I said, putting my hands behind my head. “Those really were the days, eh?”

Sarah giggled.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “But the way you say it almost sounds like you enjoyed it.”

I gave her a side-long glance. “Oh, I did. I shit you not.”


The room was filled with drawn-out bursts of laughter for a long time. Most of our jokes revolved around fecal matter. Jen brought up the time she had a job filming Asian girls shitting and pissing into a wealthy Jewish lawyer’s mouth. Sarah talked about how she held her shit in for a week once when she was young and then took a shit on her bathroom scale; it had weighed several pounds. I joked that I had considered wearing tampons in my ass but that I was worried about getting Toxic Shit Syndrome. Our shirt sleeves were drenched in tears.

At around 1 AM, Sarah looked at the clock on the wall and remembered that she needed to get up at 6 to go to work. She gave me a spare set of keys to her apartment. She reminded us that both me and Jen would never see her again; we would be gone by the time Sarah came home from work. She asked that I put the keys through the mail slot before I left. She thanked us for making her laugh.

“I’ll never forget it,” she said. “Thank you.”

She went to her room and closed the door.


I looked at the time again. My shoulders sagged.

“Holy shit,” I said. “In less than twelve hours you’ll be on a plane.”

“I know,” Jen said. She sighed.

She hugged me. I grabbed her ass with one hand.

“I know,” she said.

“You better.”

She kissed me. I bit her lip.

She grabbed my cock. I was getting hard. I still needed to piss, so I pushed her down on the blow-up mattress Sarah had lent us to sleep on. She gasped when she landed. I went to the bathroom and pissed. When I came back, our sleeping bag was on top of Sarah’s mattress. Jen was on top of it, naked and on all fours, with her ass hovering in the air. It was dark in the room, but the backs of her legs glistened in the light from the blinking VCR display. She looked back at me and smiled.

“Fuck me,” she whispered.

“Okay,” I said.

I mounted her. She was extremely wet. I thrust hard a few times. The movement made the mattress make a weird noise.

“Careful,” Jen said. “She’s going to hear us.”

I slowed down and pulled a blanket over us, fooling myself into thinking that it would mute our actions. I positioned her on her side and went in behind her, in a spooning position. Jen moaned loudly and constantly, ignoring her own advice. The last time I had fucked her had been a week prior, and I was backed up. It was too much; I soon couldn’t take it anymore and had to pull out. I finished myself off on her ass and legs. I felt that I had underperformed. The last time we were to have sex was supposed to be incredible. The disappointment was intense; I could practically feel it coming out in my ejaculate. Wordlessly, I got up and went to my backpack to get some tissues. I came back and wiped her legs and ass dry. I vainly wiped at the sleeping bag.

I laid down next to her and sighed.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“That was the last time, and it was shitty as fuck.”

“No, it wasn’t.”

“I just don’t want the last thing you remember me by to be a shitty lay where I didn’t get you off.”

She kissed me. “That’s not true. Don’t say that.”

“Okay.”

“I’m going to remember the amazing lays. Plus you can’t say you didn’t have a good time this time,” she said, smiling.

I smiled back. “Yeah,” I said. “Also, you’re not the one sleeping on the wet spot tonight.”

She kissed me again.

We fell asleep naked and clasped tightly to each other.


I woke up at 10:15. It hurt to look at my watch.

“Wake up, Jen,” I said. “You have to catch your flight soon.”

She groaned and pulled the blankets over her head. In doing so she slowly revealed the lower half of her naked body. It amused me.

I walked to the kitchen. Sarah had left a note saying we could eat the left-over spaghetti in the fridge. I microwaved two bowls and brought them to the living room. Jen had gotten dressed and was deflating the air mattress. I frowned. I realized I would never see her naked again.

I gave her a bowl of spaghetti and we ate together in silence. I wanted to talk but forced myself not to. I wanted to relish this last meal with her. After the meal, I showered and she did the dishes. I helped her with her bags and made sure I wasn’t keeping anything in my bag that belonged to her.

She shouldered her bag and I picked up my my small backpack. Hers was filled with all the material possessions she had accumulated in the previous three months of traveling. Mine had food, some water, and a book. I left my large duffel bag behind; I was coming back to Sarah’s apartment before going to the Greyhound station.

“Well, we’ve got to go,” she said.

“Yeah.”

We left the apartment and I locked the door behind us. We walked to the bus stop and got on the next bus heading to the San Antonio International Airport. On the bus, we mostly talked about all the strange, funny and random things that had happened to us on our travels: how I had gotten mugged at knifepoint, the racism she encountered, the man dressed up as Shrek in a small Salvadoran peasant village. It was a good way to distract me from the reality of Jen’s departure.

We walked through the airport doors. My heart felt like it was sinking into my guts. I found it difficult to breathe. Jen checked in her luggage and stood in line for the Los Angeles-bound flight. There was a velvet rope separating us. It was already happening so fast.

I hugged Jen and kissed her as many times as I could before the security guard asked me to step away. I told him I would only be a minute. He backed away. I kissed her again. I kissed her eyes, her cheeks, her mouth, her ears, her neck. Tears streamed down Jen’s face. She laughed.

“Marc, you kissed me a million times. You’re going to have to stop eventually,” she said.

“I know.”

“I love you.”

“I love you too.”

“Fuck, I love you.”

“I’ll come visit in July or August,” I said. “Wherever you happen to be. Just let me know if it’s San Francisco or LA or New York or whatever.”

“Okay. I’ll email you as soon as I get to my parents’ place in LA. Good luck on your bus trip.”

“Yeah, email me a ton of things so that I have something to look forward to when I get home from the bus ride.”

“I will.”

Two security guards appeared, one on either side of me.

“That’s enough,” one of them said. “You need to come with us.”

I backed away from the velvet rope and walked backwards, still looking at Jen. Jen looked back.

“Jen!” I yelled. “I love you!”

She cried. “I love you too!” she yelled back.

The two security guards grabbed me by the arms and turned me around.

“It’s okay, I’m going, I’m going,” I said. They let go of me but continued walking with me to the exit.

I didn’t look back at Jen. I knew it would be more painful to look back than to just keep going. I left the airport and walked to the bus stop. I was the only one at the bus stop save for an old man. After a few minutes, the old man walked up to me.

“Are you lost?” he asked.

“No,” I said. “This bus goes to Houston Street, right?”

“Yes sir. You just looked lost,” he said.

“I’m not,” I said.

The bus arrived shortly thereafter. I asked the bus driver if he could warn me when the bus turned on Houston Street. He said he would be more than happy to. I sat on a seat close to the front. I stared at my hands. My mind was reeling. I had spent nearly 24 hours a day with Jen, for almost 3 months straight. I’d told her that I would visit her in the summer, but I knew in my heart that I would never see her again. I was sure she knew it too. It was painful to dwell on – I had to force myself to imagine that I was still planning on visiting her. I shook my head. I needed to think clearly. I still had to get to Sarah’s apartment; to the Greyhound terminal; to Montreal; to 53 hours from now.

I took H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man out of my backpack and opened it to a random page. I didn’t read. I just stared.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Slow Wave

I woke up with a start. My neck felt stiff. My room was freezing. The pillows, the blankets, the covers, the sheets, everything was gone. I was lying on a bare mattress on the bottom bunk of my bunk bed. I looked at my watch. It was 5:30 am. I reluctantly got out of bed to look for my bedding. I looked in my closet and underneath the bed and on the top bunk. The bedding for the top bunk was still there. I made a mental note to sleep in the top bunk if I couldn’t find the missing bedding.

Thinking that someone had played a trick on me in the night, I instinctively walked to my brother’s room. He was asleep. He didn’t wake up when I entered his room and snooped around. The bedding was nowhere to be found.

Next I went to my parents’ room. My mother woke up and asked me if I was okay when I entered the room. I told her I was fine. The bedding wasn’t there, either. I left their room.

I groggily walked down the hallway to the kitchen. On the way there, I thought I heard a voice yell out, “John!” It terrified me. I stopped walking and looked around for the source of the utterance. It had been a man’s voice, but it hadn’t come from any of the bedrooms. I started to think that I was going crazy. I looked at my watch again. It was 5:37 am.

I went to the kitchen. The blinds were open and the first light of the day was starting to come in. That’s when I heard the noise. I had no idea what it was. It was a long, protracted pshhhhhhhhhhhh sound. Almost like the sound of gas leaking. It was coming from the basement.

I walked to the edge of the basement steps. It was pitch black down there, save for a sliver of light coming from the bathroom door, which was open a crack. Oh, I thought. It’s probably just somebody showering. But everyone’s asleep. And who would shower this early on a Saturday?

I reluctantly walked down the steps to the basement.

I closed the basement door behind me, and the air pressure abruptly forced the bathroom door open a few inches. It creaked as it opened; it scared the hell out of me. Steam was coming out of the bathroom. It’s definitely someone showering, I thought.

I wrapped my hand around the door knob and pulled.

I could barely see into the bathroom. It was filled with steam. I walked into the room with my hands out in front of me. And then I saw it. My bedding was in the shower, the whole lot of it. The shower was turned on full blast. It was incredibly hot. I turned the crank to turn the shower off, until the pshhhhhhhhhhh noise disappeared altogether. I poked my finger at a wad of sheets. They were completely soaked. I wondered how long they had been in the shower. I became furious, suddenly sure that my brother had played a prank on me in the middle of the night. But the problem was that I knew I would have woken up if he had tried to take all of my bedding from me. And how had he gotten the mattress liner from underneath my body? It made no sense.

I grabbed as much of it as I could and rushed upstairs to put it in the dryer. I repeated this three more times until it was all in the dryer. After I turned on the dryer, I went down to the basement and looked for any clues that someone had put my bedding in the shower. There was nothing except for an empty bag of potato chips a few feet from the bathroom door. I threw it in the trash, certain that my mother would yell at me if she found it.

I went back up to my room. I tried to go back to sleep in the top bunk but I couldn’t. I wanted to play video games in the basement but I was too scared to go back there. I tried to read but couldn’t concentrate. I decided to wait until my family woke up.

It took forever. At around 8 am, my parents woke up. I asked my mother if she had taken my bedding downstairs during the night. She looked confused. I told her that I had found my bedding in the basement shower. She told me that in the middle of the night, I had walked into her room carrying some pillows and asked if it needed to be washed. She had been half-asleep and said, “Yes, it all needs to be washed some day.” I had also grabbed a bag of chips from her nightstand and asked her if she wanted any. She’d said no. I left with the bag of chips and the pillows.

My father told us that he had heard someone walking around the house for a long time during the night and had assumed that I had been running back and forth from my room to the bathroom to throw up.

I had no recollection of me getting up at night. I had gone to sleep at 11 pm and woken up at 5:30 am.

Later on, my brother woke up and told us that he had heard someone go down and turn on the shower – his room was directly over the downstairs bathroom – and that the footsteps had kept him up for part of the night.

We ate breakfast together. No one really spoke about what happened. My parents tried to act normal. But I always recognized when my parents were alarmed. Understandably, they didn’t want to deal with the potential for therapy, psychologists, dealing with an eating disorder, and whatever else they felt might be necessary solutions to what they perceived as a problem. They didn’t have a lot of money, and the last thing they wanted was to pay more bills. But I understood now. It was both a curse and a great relief.

I had sleep-walked.

Monday, March 29, 2010

53 Hours (Part 4)


The Alamo was okay. First we got an off-duty police officer to take a picture of me and Jen in front of it. He didn’t want to take the picture at first, but Jen told him that as a tax-payer she felt that it was her right for him to take a picture of us.

The tour itself was semi-interesting. However, I was annoyed by a Texan historian’s monologue to a group of tourists about the Mexicans’ brutality. He had compared Santa Anna to Hitler. I explained to Jen my theory that any historian who compares a historical figure to Hitler is not a real historian; at the very least, they’re a shitty one.

“I don’t see what the big deal is,” I said. “First off, Santa Anna fucking won, and yeah, boo-hoo, that’s so sad that all the Texans died. But then they went and won the whole goddamned Texan Revolution. So many Mexicans died during that, and Mexico lost an enormous chunk of its territory. So what does he have to complain about? ‘Wah, wah, my grandpa died in the Alamo.’ Put a sock in it, you piece of shit.”

An old man overheard me and glared. I glared back.

He lost the staring contest.

“Yeah,” Jen said. “They deserved to die.”

We laughed.

The historian who had led the tour overheard her and looked hurt. We laughed harder.


After the Alamo, we went to the mall to see Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. Every time the movie made any mention or nod at the state of Texas, someone in the cinema would invariably yell out, “Yeah! That’s here!” It was funny at first, but it quickly lost its humour as the movie progressed.

“Shut the fuck up,” Jen yelled. “Or I’ll make you.”

“Fuck you,” someone bellowed back. “I’d like to see you try you little bitch!”

Jen stood on top of her seat and looked around at the people around us. “Show yourself you motherfucker. I’ll fucking kill you.”

The cinema became silent.

“Yeah,” Jen said. “That’s what I thought.” She sat back down.

I shivered. Her anger jolted me.

No one said anything for the rest of the movie. No one even laughed.


After the movie, we walked back to the Greyhound station and into the storage facility. We asked the black guys we had met earlier for our bags and they were happy to oblige. They insisted on fist-bumping with us before we left, and wished us good luck on our travels. I asked them if they had gotten in trouble for helping us with our bag situation and they insisted that everything was alright. I thanked them again and met Jen at the payphone next to the station’s entrance.

“You know, you just seem like you’re full of white guilt when you do that.”

“Huh? When I do what?” I asked.

“When you’re asking them if they’re in trouble and shit.”

“What? I don’t follow.”

“It just seemed weird earlier, like you didn’t trust a bunch of black guys with your bag.”

“It had nothing to do with that. I wouldn’t trust any strangers with my bag, period. The last time I did it was robbed at the Albany Greyhound station, remember?”

“Yeah,” she said. “I guess.” She didn’t look convinced.

“Hey,” I said. “Remember that thing I said where you were going to try not pissing me off?”

Jen nodded.

“Now would be a good time to try to implement it. I don’t like people insinuating that I’m racist.”

“Aww, you’re not a racist,” she said. She kissed me. “You’re going out with an Asian. That proves you’re the least racist man on the planet.”

I laughed. “You certainly are a racist, though,” I said. “Your revenge against the whites is to go out with them and torture them.”

She smiled and hit me lightly in the shoulder. “I’m going to call that girl now. Sarah or what’s her name.”

“Yeah, Sarah’s her name,” I said.

Jen went to the payphone and called the Couchsurfer we were set to stay with for the night. It was a short conversation. Sarah had just gotten off of work and was on her way to pick us up at the station.

We waited a few minutes outside of the station’s entrance doors. A green Hyundai Accent rolled up to us. A girl got out of the car. She wore a black and white polka dot dress and large sunglasses. It didn’t look good on her; mixed with her pale skin, her clothes were an eye sore. She was quite fat, but exited the vehicle gracefully. She lowered her sunglasses, as if to inspect us.

“Jen and Marc?”

“Yes, that’s us,” I said.

“Hey, how’s it going?” She hugged us.

“Pretty good,” I said.

“Alright,” Jen said.

“Y’all want to go grocery shopping?” Sarah said.

“Yeah,” I said. “I haven’t eaten in a while.”

“Yeah, let’s go buy some food,” Jen agreed.


We got into the Accent and Sarah drove us to the grocery store. On the way I learned that Sarah was a Francophile. She had been to France several times, had had many French boyfriends, and preferred France over Texas. While we shopped for groceries she asked me if French was my first language and I told her that it was. I filled my basket with a loaf of bread, a bottle of peanut butter and a bottle of jelly. Jen was looking for Rice-a-roni and couldn’t find any. Frustrated, she walked away from us to ask a stock-boy where it was.

I took the opportunity to talk to Sarah in French. “Where did you learn French?” I asked her in French. She smiled awkwardly and didn’t answer. I looked in her basket. She had a baguette, a stick of butter, some meat, and a bottle of wine in there.

“Can’t you understand me?” I asked in French.

“No, I find your Quebecois accent difficult to understand,” she said in French.

“Oh,” I said. I wasn’t offended. It wasn’t the first time that had happened in my life. I switched to a France-like accent.

“How about now?” I asked.

“Yes, I can understand you fine like this.”

“Have you never been to Quebec?”

“No, I prefer France.”

“Why not? It’s so much closer, and you can speak French as much as you want there. It’s amazing.”

“Listen,” she said, switching to English. “I don’t do, Quebec. Okay?” She looked peeved.

I was shocked by her rudeness. “Okay,” I said. I don’t do fake-ass French-loving obese monsters, you stinking cunt. I’m closer to what you want to be than you’ll ever be.

Jen walked back. She had two boxes of Rice-a-roni in her arms. “I’m good to go now,” she said. “You guys ready?”

“Hell yes,” I said.

Sarah started asking Jen questions about our trip. Then she started asking about her life and her childhood and her Korean background. I was completely absent from the conversation. I didn’t mind. By the time they had finished their conversation, Sarah had parked in her apartment’s driveway. The sign next to her parking spot read, PARKING FOR FRENCH ONLY.

I laughed at how stupid it sounded.
“What’s so funny?” Jen asked.

“Nothing. Nothing’s funny,” I said, still giggling.

“Well, something is clearly funny to you,” Sarah said.

“I just thought the parking sign was pretty clever,” I lied.

“Oh, well thank you,” Sarah said. She smiled. “I’m glad you like it.”

“Thank you for having put something so clever up,” I said.


Sarah showed us her apartment. I thought it was too large for one person. All of the walls were painted yellow, which I didn’t like. She lived alone but claimed to have a boyfriend in France who visited sometimes. I put my bags down and sat on the couch. I took out a notebook and calculated how much money I owed Jen. Sarah and Jen made spaghetti in the kitchen.

Sarah popped her head into the living room.

“Want your spaghetti sauce spicy or not spicy?” she asked.

“Spicy, please. And no meat sauce. Ask Jen, she’ll make sure it’s vegan.”

“You got it.”

I flipped through my notes four, five, six times. No matter how many times I looked through them, I still owed Jen a lot of money. It was only a rough estimate, especially considering that I couldn’t yet look at my finance notes on my e-mail, but I owed her something to the tune of six hundred dollars. American dollars. I remembered how Jen had once sued her ex-boyfriend for over a thousand dollars. He had owed her a lot of money. She went on The People’s Court and won. I had seen the episode. Even though her ex-boyfriend was clearly losing the case, Judge Milian had to yell at Jen several times for not keeping quiet when it was his turn to speak. She only shut up after the judge warned her that she would be kicked out of the courtroom.

In the end though, she had won. Her ex-boyfriend – a destitute graffiti artist who could hardly make ends meet – ended up paying her the money. I didn’t empathize with him. But I didn’t want to end up on The People’s Court, either.

Jen and Sarah came into the living room with steaming hot bowls of spaghetti. Jen gave me mine.

“Thanks, babe,” I said.

“What are you doing?” she asked, sitting down next to my notebook.

“Looking at how much money I owe you. Please don’t sue me, I’ll pay for it all soon after I get home. I just need to work first.”

“Don’t worry, baby,” she said. She put her hand through my hair. “It’s okay, I know you’re good for it.”

“Aww,” Sarah cooed. “You guys are so cute.”

Jen took a bite of spaghetti. “What’s cute about it?”

“Just how you trust each other with money and all. It’s really cute. I wish I could be like that with my boyfriend,” Sarah said.

“Oh, but I know he’s going to pay me,” Jen said. “Because if he doesn’t, I’m finding him, and I’m chopping his balls off.”

We all laughed. But I was aware that Jen had only been half-kidding.

“Please,” I said. “I’d much rather be on The People’s Court instead.”

Monday, March 22, 2010

53 Hours (Part 3)

Judging by their accents and stories, the other people waiting in line with me were mostly Texans. I was confident that I was the only person going to Montreal from San Antonio. I took The Invisible Man out of my backpack and started to read it again. I found that I wasn’t able to – all I could think about was how much I hated Jen and how glad I was to be going home again. I decided to put the book away so I could focus on daydreaming about my friends, my family, and my cat Jelly.

After a few minutes I felt a soft poke on my shoulder. I looked down. It was Jen. I frowned.

“What?” I asked.

“You know,” she said, “You could come stay in San Antonio tonight with me.”

“Oh, so you change your mind now?” I asked. “Seemed like you were pretty adamant before about me getting the fuck out of your life.”

She gave me a sheepish look. “Everything outside is really scary,” she said. I smiled at that. The way she spoke was really cute. “Especially the homeless people. Can you come with me?”

“Hold on a second,” I said. “Let me think about it.”

I thought about it for a minute. She looked pitiful just standing there, waiting for me to make up my mind. In some sick, twisted way, I enjoyed it. I liked knowing she was dependent on me for something.

“Okay,” I said. “You’re not going to yell at me, then.”

She nodded.

“Ever,” I said. “If you even get a little bit mad at me, I’m going back home. Got it?”

She nodded again.

“So you’re not going to yell at me?”

“No.”

“What do you mean, no?”

“I mean, no I won’t yell at you.”

“Good.”

I picked up my duffel bag.

“Wait a second,” I said. “Are you even sorry?”

She said nothing. I already knew she wasn’t capable of apologizing but I had to try.

“Whatever,” I said. “Let me go change my ticket.”


I went to the front counter and paid fifteen dollars to postpone the next scheduled bus ride of my trip by 24 hours.

The guy behind the counter printed out a new set of tickets and stretched them out.

“Damn,” he said. “You crazy.” He showed the tickets to his colleagues. They laughed.

“I know, everybody keeps saying that,” I said, annoyed. “But I’ll bet you anything that the closer I get to there the less crazy people will think I am.”

“Good point,” said the guy behind the counter.


I walked back to Jen. We had a few hours to kill before the Couchsurfer who we were going to be staying with got off work, so we decided to find a place to store our bags.

“I don’t see any storage lockers here though,” I said.

“That’s easy,” she said. “Follow me.”

I followed her to one end of the station, to a set of swinging doors that were clearly marked with signs reading AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY.

I didn’t want to go through the doors. “Are you sure you know what you’re doing? Where does that go, anyway?” I asked.

“Stop being a pussy,” she said.

I figured that was a good idea, so I followed her.

On the other side of the doors was some sort of storage facility. There was luggage on hooks, on the ground, on racks. In one corner, three black guys in were rapping to each other and laughing. They were wearing uniforms – I couldn’t tell what their jobs were, though. One of them leaned on a hand truck. None of them seemed to be doing much work. We approached them.

“Hey guys,” Jen said. “Do you know a place we could store our bags for just a few hours? We can pay you.”

“Sure, honey,” one of them said. “There’s a place right in here I can hide it.” He pulled back on a tarp covering the wall and revealed a hole that could fit our luggage. “These boys won’t touch ‘em, I won’t touch ‘em. The bags are safe here, y’all.”

I didn’t want to trust a bunch of strangers with my bags, but I felt that it was too late now to stop what was happening. The man seemed to read the hesitation on my face, because he repeated himself. “The bags’ll be safe. Y’all don’t worry.”

“Huh,” I said. “Yeah.” Jen looked at me accusingly. I knew she thought my indecision had to do with the fact that they were black.

“We’ll pay you, obviously,” Jen said. She passed the man a ten dollar bill. “There’s more in it for you if our bags are nice and safe and unstolen when we get back.”

The men laughed. “Nah, y’all are alright, nobody’ll touch these bags,” the man said. “Actually, keep the money.” He handed the money back to Jen. I was relieved. I felt it was much easier to trust them if they were so keen on doing us a favour for free, even after being offered some money.

“Look at this niggah, he look like he seen a ghost,” another one of them said.

“Nah, I’m just tired man,” I said. “I just want to go take a shit on the Alamo and then pass out.”

They laughed. “I hear you man. Y’all been traveling far?” the first man asked.

“Yeah, we just came back from Central America. We spent three months there,” Jen said.

“You two at the same time? I mean, you two traveled together?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Jen said. She looked at me. “Three months with him. It was awful.” I couldn’t tell if she was being sarcastic or not.

“That’s the world’s biggest understatement,” I said.

“Yo, you got an accent, man. Where you from?”

I pretended to be indignant.

“Accent? What accent?”

“Come on man, you got some little accent there.”

“I’m from Montreal. In Canada.”

“Oh! I was banking on somewhere north but not that north.”

“Yeah, Montreal’s pretty north.”

They looked amused until a man carrying a clipboard walked past them.

“Alright, we gotta do some crew work, so y’all take care and come back later, we’ll be here till six o’clock if you need anything. Don’t worry about your bags. They’re cool, niggah, they’re cool.”

They shook hands with me and Jen. We left the storage facility.

We stopped inside the terminal. “Wanna see the Alamo?” I asked.

Jen nodded.

We walked out of the Greyhound station. It was bright and sunny out. The sun felt good on my skin. There was a small park in front of us. Jen had been right. There were plenty of homeless people outside. Most of them were lying down in grassy areas and sleeping. After having seen homeless people walk around with guns, swords and knives in Central America, though, I wasn’t threatened by men who were able to take naps in parks in broad daylight with no fear of getting stabbed in their sleep. We walked through the park towards the downtown area of San Antonio. The sun was bright and we both squinted as we walked.

“How Asian of you to accept to take the money back,” I said.

“At least I don’t have an accent,” she said.

She took my hand in hers and I squeezed it. She squeezed back.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

53 Hours (Part 2)

I was the last person in line. I hoped that I could have a seat next to Jen but I knew I wouldn’t care that much if I couldn’t sit next to her. I gave the bus driver my Greyhound ticket. He unfolded it out to its full length – it was almost four feet long. He laughed and shook his head.

“Yeah, I know,” I said. He gave me back my ticket and I got on the bus.

The bus was packed, except for three seats. One of those seats was the one next to Jen. I made my way to the back of the bus and sat next to her.

“Hey,” I said. “We made it.”

“You’re a fucking idiot,” she said. “What if I had ended up on the bus by myself?”

“Well, the important thing is that that didn’t happen,” I said. “I’m here right now and we’re together again. Let’s just enjoy the time we’ve got left, okay? San Antonio’s going to be great.”

Jen took out an anarchist zine and skimmed through it.

“You know,” she said. “Maybe you shouldn’t stop in San Antonio like you planned.”

She looked into my eyes. “Maybe you should keep going until you get to Montreal.”

It was unexpected; I didn’t know what to say at first. I kept opening my mouth but I couldn’t get words to come out. After a few attempts I was able to say something.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. Don’t stop at San Antonio. Just get on the next bus and get out of here. I’m done with you.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yes.”

“Fine,” I said. I took out H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man out of my backpack and opened it. “I’ll go.”

I pretended to read the book but I couldn’t. All I could think about was how ruthless and impatient Jen had just been, and how I could never be like her. I wondered how and when she had transformed into such a monster on this trip. She wasn’t the same girl I’d known 3 months earlier.

Every 20 seconds or so, I turned a page of the book so that it looked like I was reading. Jen kept reading her zine. She looked calm.

Some time went by – maybe 30 minutes or so – and I was finally able to accept that we were breaking up and I was heading home. I started looking forward to it. I still felt hurt by her words, but I felt a sense of liberation now.

I turned back to the first page of The Invisible Man and started to read.

A girl sitting behind us started to talk loudly to her friends who were sitting in the seats on the other side of the aisle from us. She had an English accent. I could tell Jen was getting annoyed by it because her face started to scrunch up and she put her zine down. She turned back several times to give the girl dirty looks, but the girl either didn’t see her or simply decided to ignore her. I could tell it drove Jen crazy.

“God,” she said. “Don’t you hate fucking British people?”

I didn’t say anything. I kept my eyes glued to my book.

A few minutes went by.

“Goddamn it, she’s so fucking annoying. I want to slap her.”

A few more minutes went by.

“Fuck! Don’t you hate fucking annoying British people? They’re the most annoying tourists ever. Why couldn’t she just like, take a plane back home or something?”

Jen looked at me. “Why aren’t you answering me? What’s wrong with you?”

I didn’t answer her.

She scowled and looked out the window. I could tell it hurt her that I was ignoring her. She wasn’t used to that. It made me sort of happy.

Eventually, the bus stopped in San Antonio. I was terrified and excited at the same time. Adrenaline rushed through me at the anticipation of leaving her and at the near-certainty of her yelling at me one last time.

I got off the bus and hurried to grab my duffel bag from the man unloading baggage. Jen waited for her luggage to be unloaded. I walked to a vending machine. It cost four US dollars for a large bottle of water. I figured that since I wasn’t going to be in America for much longer and that I needed a new bottle anyway, it was worth the expense. I put four dollar bills in and the machine gave me a bottle of water. Jen walked up to me as I untwisted the cap to drink some water.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“What’s it look like? Drinking some water.”

“But it’s four dollars. Are you crazy?”

“It’s my fucking money. I can spend it on what I want.”

“Whatever. Let’s go.”

She walked towards the exit and I walked towards the line for the Dallas-bound bus.

“Wait, stop. Where are you going?” she asked.

“Home,” I said.

“Why?”

“You told me to go home and I asked you if you meant it and you said yes. So I’m going home. I don’t want to be around you.”

“Oh,” she said. She looked surprised and hurt. “Fine. Bye.”

“Bye,” I said. “Have a nice fucking life.”

She turned around and left the Greyhound station.

I walked to the back of the line where the people were waiting for the Dallas-bound bus.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

53 Hours (Part 1)

I woke up first, at about 9:30 am. We had to be at the Greyhound station for 11 am. That was when our bus to San Antonio was set to leave. I got up and stretched my limbs out. I watched Jen sleep for a minute. She snored. It was loud. I felt a pang of anger at the recollection of all the times she had woke me up, jabbed me in the ribs, yelled at me in the night, for snoring. She was guilty of the same crime but I knew it was ludicrous to try to punish her for it. I felt that I was better than that.

I didn’t bother to wake Josh or Caitlin up at first. I had so rarely been alone in the previous 3 months that I relished whatever solitude I could get. I took a shower. After that, I ate a banana and read some magazines.

At 10 am, I decided to wake up Jen. I shook her awake and told her it was time to get up. She looked at the time and groaned. She stood up and screamed at me for not having waked her up at the same time as me.

“We’re going to be late because of you. Fucking idiot.”

I tried to defend myself but I had no real excuse. I had just wanted to be alone for a while. Josh and Caitlin woke up. Josh came into the living room.

“Don’t worry guys,” he said with a Texan twang I still wasn’t quite accustomed to. “We’ll make it to the Greyhound.”

Jen pushed past me and packed a bunch of her bags. Josh and I shared a look and chuckled. He helped me pack a few things and then went to the bathroom and took a shower.

At 10:40 am he got out of the shower and unpeeled a banana. He was still in a towel. He looked like he had all the time in the world. I envied him. Jen looked annoyed by his relaxed demeanour.

“We’ll make it,” he said through a mouthful of banana. “Don’t worry. There’s plenty of time.”

At 10:45 am, Caitlin, Jen and I got into Josh’s SUV. Josh came out about a minute later with another banana. He started the ignition and drove us to the Corpus Christi Greyhound station. It was 10:55 am when we got there.

We all got out of the SUV and I hugged Josh and Caitlin. Jen didn’t. Caitlin gave me a Corpus Christi flag. They were hard to come by, so I was touched. I put it in my luggage. I hugged them again and told them to visit soon. They went back into the SUV and drove away.

Jen and I ran into the Greyhound station. Jen didn’t need her bags checked, but I did. There were four people in line. I cut in front of them and told the man behind the counter that I wanted to check my bags in. The man was black and had a dark blue dress shirt on. He had a moustache and wore large glasses. He looked like he had never smiled in his life.

“Listen, boy,” he said. “You can’t just jump in front of line, here.”

“I know, but I-”

“But nothin’. Get your ass back in line and then I’ll talk to you.”

I wordlessly walked to the back of the line.

No one in the line smiled. For some reason I expected them to.

Jen stood outside the cordoned off area of the line and stared at me. I could see her gritting her teeth.

“We’re going to miss the bus because of you,” she said.

“Then go on without me,” I said.

She didn’t say anything. She just stood there. I wondered why she didn’t get on the bus.

“Just go up to the driver and tell him to wait a minute,” I said.

The man behind the counter heard me and hollered, “The driver will not do that under no circumstance, man.”

“Well, never mind,” I said. “Just get on without me and I’ll take the next one and meet you there.”

“God, you’re useless,” she said. I was confused. Why doesn’t she just get on the bus if she’s so pissed?

Eventually I got to the front of the line. It was 11:04 am.

“Can I help you?” asked the man behind the counter.

“Yeah, I want to check my bags in. But only if the bus hasn’t left yet.”

“There’s no way I can check that for you. If you’re lucky it’s still loadin’ right over there, but otherwise you gotta pay fifteen bucks if it ain’t there.”

“I’ll risk it. Just check my bags, please.”

I gave him my passport and Greyhound ticket. He looked at the ticket and laughed. When he smiled I could see that he was missing several teeth.

“You goin’ to Montreal? Ain’t that in Canada?”

“Yeah, last time I checked.”

“That’s damn far. You crazy. Shit. Corpus Christi to Montreal.”

“Yes, I am.”

“You’re what?”

“Crazy.”

“Why you doin’ somethin’ stupid like that anyway?”

“Cause it’s less than a hundred bucks.”

“Still, man. That’s three days on different buses.”

“Can you give me my ticket back? I’d like to get on the bus.”

He put the Greyhound ticket in my passport and gave it to me.

“Have a great ride,” he said.

I looked around. Jen was gone.

I ran to the bus depot and grabbed a bus driver smoking a cigarette.

“Quick, where’s bus number seven? The one going to San Antonio.”

He took a haul of his cigarette and pointed at the bus I needed to get on.


I ran to the other side of bus number seven and saw that there were still passengers getting on. I was relieved.

Jen was in the middle of the line. I walked past her and stood at the back of the line.