by Nicolas Poynter
This bus trip makes me think of another bus trip, even though there are countless years separating the two of them. When I told her I was leaving for the bus station, she turned to me, her eyes red and wet, and told me I shouldn’t get there so early. “It is the saddest fucking place on Earth,” she said. “You don’t want to be there one moment more than you have to.” She didn’t understand. It’s not like the airport where you calculate the time to get through security and then the time to buy a Frappuccino and then add another half hour in case the taxi is late. When you go by bus, you just go there and wait, staring at the wall, lost in thought, and if you have to wait forever then you wait forever. You don’t even feel time.
If I could go back, I think I could avoid them—both bus trips. I would devote myself to it. I wouldn’t walk away from people so easily. I wouldn’t quit so many jobs, self-destruct, light myself on fire just to show them the thing that is impossible for them to see. I would save my money instead of blowing it, maybe even pay my bills so that I wouldn’t get thrown out of apartment buildings, if I knew then what I know now. I would need to go back far though, farther than I can even see right now. I would have to go back to before I flunked that year in elementary school because sometime around then was the start of all of it. I’m certain of it. I would work hard and study, become a doctor like I have always thought I should have been. I would go back to be a little boy again or even a baby. But once there, I would most likely just keep going, well past my own birth even, like some crazy-aggressive taxi driver in Latin America, speeding backwards through time and space with my foot firm on the accelerator, shouting obscenities out the open window while jerking around slower-moving time travelers, both hands tight on the wheel. I would stop it all.
When I was fifteen I ran away to New York City and lived on the streets for two days until I called my mom for a bus ticket home. I didn’t call her because I was scared or because I missed her or anything like that. I was just really hungry. She bought the ticket but I still had no money for food so the trip back was some form of nightmare, stopping at diners every so many hours, smelling the sandwiches and the pancakes but settling for swiped ketchup packets and complimentary cups of water. It was more than two days but less than three. When I finally arrived, my mother was there waiting for me and I remember the reunion as clearly as if it were yesterday. That particular bus station doesn’t even exist anymore but I still remember exactly how we stood, facing each other, the position of the sun, and the look on her face. But I don’t blame her. I had not eaten or showered in almost a week. I don’t blame her for looking at me that way. Instead of driving me back to the house, she took me to a hotel room and left me there. I stayed there until she found a boarding school and then she took me there and left me there. She did take me to McDonalds first, before all of it, and I will always be grateful for that.
If you become broken as a child, you are not going to get fixed. I’m sorry. You will spend your life looking for that thing that is missing, but you will never find it because it doesn’t exist. You just got cracked is all, like an engine block. You might feel it as a thirst and try to quench it with whiskey or sex but it isn’t that. You might convince yourself that what you lack is love and maybe on some level that is true, but love will not be possible for you, not with that crack running down the middle of you. You just got broke is all and you will never ever be fixed, because it happened when you were very young. You will spend your life like some runaway kid coming home on the bus—hungry but without money for food.