A Bus to Mexico

By
I’d been drifting around for a while, but I’ve been steady at this last job for two years. There were five flights of stairs, each step one plain and un-adorned, like everything in this city, every building a monument concrete and steel. My apartment was clean for once, my pictures (the few that I had) hanging straight on the walls, the peeling wall paper scummy tiled kitchen floor only slightly detracting from overall cleanliness of the house. I made dinner quickly, watched TV for an hour or two, and then went to bed late.
I fell asleep at three; only to have a jarred awakening at four, as the shrill squeal of my doorbell pierced the humid night’s air. Pulling on my jeans, I realized with a sinking feeling that I would have to walk all the way downstairs, as the intercom system was broken. I hesitated at the door, but decided to forgo shoes, no matter how unsanitary my Block is.
The cold tiles helped me waken up, and at the bottom, I felt as awake as any one could at 4.20 AM after a long day’s working. I squinted through the dirty glass of the front door, and could discern a vaguely female shape through the pane. I opened the door, noticing first and foremost the eyes of my visitor. They were a muddy brown, but a closer inspection revealed streaks of green radiating out of the black pupil. They were eyes I knew well enough, eyes I had gazed in long ago, after a lingering kiss.
“Kate…Why are you here?”
The smallest glint of a ring on her finger.
“Nice to see you too, Cal,” she said, a hint of a southern drawl in her voice. “I’ve been around... you know, Halesboro, Leakey, though I just caught the bus from Austin.”
“Where the hell is Leakey, and Halesboro?”
“Exactly.” She smiled, white teeth glinting. “I had to get away…Say, I’m starving, do you have any food by chance?”
“Sure, come on up,” I replied leading her up to the elevator. We stood in silence; a seven year period of no contact rarely leaves you with little to talk about, strangely enough. “Listen,” she said, as she sat down in a plush chair sprouting foam, “I’m in a bit of trouble.”
“Yeah, I could kinda tell.”
“I got married,” she added quietly, as if was the most natural thing. She looked at my face, hoping for a hint of surprise. Kate tended to rush into things, regret them, and then always fell back on me, to protect her and shield her.
“So what’s he like, because I don’t want a crazy hick to try to blast me with a shotgun.”
“Cal, I have taste,” she said smiling.
“So why did you go out with me then?”
She smiled weakly.
“His name is George, and he’s a real nice guy. He works in the government offices and he’s real calm and stable and all.”
“But…” I offered.
“He’s too nice, too calm. I can’t stand it; I’m too young to be stuck as a housewife. So, I thought… I could maybe stay at yours.”
I laughed. “So you came to me, huh? We’ll I hate to have to tell you know, but, I think I’m boring too, now. I have a job, a home, a life. This is where and how I belong.”
“Has he not been looking for you?” I asked, trying to change the subject.
Don’t know, she said, but her eyes showed she really meant ‘Hopefully’.
Kate looked at her feet, and I realized she was crying, softly. I went to her side of the couch, only to hear the bell ring again. It was almost five in the morning. A man stood at the door, looking impatient and the tiniest bit distraught. He introduced himself as George.
“Ahh, so you’re George?” adding: “Kate arrived half an hour ago; she’s up in my apartment. Let’s take the elevator.”
“Thanks, and for taking care of her,” he said, polite, with his voice slightly choked. “I don’t know why she ran away, but I managed to find your address. Is she alright? Do you know why she ran away?”
“Sorry, you have to ask her yourself.”
The elevator door opened, facing the open door of my apartment. The scratched and battered door swung slightly, drifting from side to side.
I began to walk towards the door but checked myself. I had closed the door.
“Oh Damn!” I shouted, and I began to run down the stairs. I took two at a time, then three, until I one step misstep from a painful tumble down the stairs.
“Has she left?” yelled George, as he began to run after me. “What have I done wrong?” The grey and peeling walls of the building flashed past, the only sounds were the pounding of our feet on the floor and George’s sobs. Reaching the door, I was stopped dead in my tracks, the horrible, tortured squeal of tires, right outside.
Stumbling out into the blinding phosphorus glare of headlights, like my ancestors taking their first tentative steps out of the ocean, flanked by a sobbing George and cowering under the fierce and desperate shouts of the crazed bus driver, I felt like Kate again. Under all the expectations and needs and cries of everyone, I felt like crumbling, like slinking away to let others clean up the mess. She had always done that, after every failed relationship, every misstep and stupid choice of words. But I let her, and I enjoyed it, for a while. It was always an option, to just wing it and be like her.
And that’s when I went to help George up and then call the emergency services.





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