I was fresh out of college. Finals were done. My roommates and I had divvied up the items in the household. The junk that I called my personal belongings had been loaded into my car. The apartment had been returned in relatively decent shape to the landlord. I was ready to go.
But I didn’t know where I would be going. My mother was in Virginia, starting a new life with a man who was not my father, living with him in a high-rise luxury condo. My father had retired from the Air Force and was set to leave his home in Northern California to move to Cocoa Beach, where the woman who was not my mother was being transferred. My younger brother was in San Diego.
I went “home” to live with my mother. I lasted less than there weeks. No arguments, no disagreements, just not a life I was going to be able to live. She and Reggie, the man who was not my father, offered to have me rent one of their (his) properties while I found a job, entered the work force, and started in on that elusive rest of my life.
Coming home from a friend’s house, taking an exit on the highway, the rear axle on my Mustang broke in half. A scary few seconds, but I managed to come to a stop without damage to me. But I saw that as a sign that it was time to leave the old behind. Within days, I was on a Greyhound bus, heading to California.
Lord knows, I couldn’t do the trip at this age, and it amazes me that there were many folks making the trek who were much older than I am today. They were the poor. They were the lonely. They were the foreigners. But there were also young people who were poor out of circumstance of youth. I was one of those.
I boarded the bus in Washington, D.C. at about 5 p.m. I waved good-bye to my mom, not realizing then that I would never live with her again or that I would never even live near her again. A quarter-century later, that knowledge today would have kept me off the bus. But I didn’t have that knowledge then, and, in fact, the me of that era might have seen that has another incentive to get on the bus.
I don’t remember the route we took. I know I changed buses several times. The rhythm I recall was drive for two hours, get a 10-minute break; drive for two more hours, get a 10-minute break; drive for two more hours, get a 30-minute break and possibly change buses. And that went on for 69 hours, until I arrived in Oakland and was met by my father.
None of the other people who boarded the bus with me in D.C. ended up getting off in Oakland. I was the only one on that particular route, although there were many, many people going similarly very long distances. But they transferred out in Chicago and headed to Texas. Or in Omaha and headed to Wyoming. Or any number of other places.
It was mind-numbing after the first 15, 20 hours. I’d fall asleep and awaken and fall asleep and awaken and fall asleep again. My waking hours and sleeping hours seemed no different. The faces of the people on the buses changed but they all seemed so similar. After three days of that type of travel, I was lucky to process when the bus was moving and when it was not.
Within days of my arrival, the entire trip was a blur. The details were as skimpy as if it had been a dream. My recall of what happened on the trip was no clearer then than it is now. It’s not time that has eroded away the details. The details eroded as mile after mile after mile went the bus.
[This is my entry for Sunday Scribblings, who provided the prompt “Dream Journey.”]
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