Rural Bus Route 15

It always seemed like a minor miracle that I’d made it onto the bus, even though I typically showed up twenty minutes before ETA and it normally arrived half an hour late. Squished into a window seat with my backpack and whatever gear I’d decided to haul along that day, I’d watch the empty glass hut right where I’d just been standing outside, half expecting to see myself still waiting there, oblivious to the presence of the bus. Eventually, the noise of the giant metal engine would rise with shuddering effort, straining against inertia like a bull against a yoke. The view outside the window would slowly begin to scroll away. It would accelerate until it was just a rhythm of telephone poles zipping past, each embedded in a humanless rural landscape. The effect was almost abstract. The poles framed stretches of flat green – cornfields – and high, dark, shadowed green – stands of trees. Every once in a while, when we passed a house, a riot of color broke the pattern like crayon on a wall.

The rumble of the bus’s engine was dangerously gentle and quieting. Over an hour and a half of rolling, hilly country roads and the maternal back-and-forth swaying of the bus in motion, I fought sleep and frequently lost. I’d find myself jarred back to wakefulness by infrequent, apparently random stops to pick up people who waited outside of abandoned garages and veterinarians’ offices. These interruptions in our journey always occurred in a location so surrounded by forest and devoid of habitation that I wondered if the new passengers were just living in the woods. How did they know that a bus would stop outside of the old weigh station at the corner of Route 5 and Stanton Road? How did the bus know that someone would be there, eager dollars clutched in hand, waiting to be installed in a seat and transported away from the middle of this blank green nowhere and borne off to a place that might or might not prove more useful to their purposes?

I would leave the bus when it arrived in my home city, clumping heavily down the corrugated steps and squeezing my enormous backpack out through the narrow door. I never quite believed I’d pulled the miracle off until I was back in my tiny, bedbug-infested white rented room on Petit Street. With the door shut, I’d collapse on my specked bed among the hidden hordes of parasites. Only then did I allow myself to relax, to shake, to sob with the certainty that today I would miss my ride home.

Despite everything else that happened, I never did.

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