Riding Greyhound, Hurricane Damage | Teen Ink

Riding Greyhound, Hurricane Damage

November 13, 2022
By Lydiaq ELITE, Somonauk, Illinois
Lydiaq ELITE, Somonauk, Illinois
163 articles 47 photos 1025 comments

Favorite Quote:
The universe must be a teenage girl. So much darkness, so many stars.
--me


Tangled in my suitcases—

changing buses in Atlanta after a six-hour layover—

purses slung over my chest,

wrestling crumpled bills into vending machines

that spit them out because they only take credit cards

leaving strawberry soda, cheese Danish, Skittles, and peanut butter cups

to the gigantic woman, knock-kneed, in plaid pajama pants, who trails me from stop to stop.

Grimy tables, whole families slumped in chairs with reboarding tickets,

a boy chasing a green plastic ball under the chairs, under the feet.

I help him retrieve the ball, scraping the sticky ground.

There’s a man with yellowish, popped eyes, his shirt wet-splotched and stained,

beer bellies and doorknocker earrings everywhere, beneath sallow lights and feeble time

when there’s nothing but phone cords, toilets, tickets,

twilight, and the reluctance of sleep—though everyone

sleeps and wakes fitfully around me, like flowers that open

and close. They pull in their blinds, lock their doors,

seal their windows. Soon the coach becomes unreality

and snores throb. They rudely awaken us with robotic

screeching. The people pick through each other

like thorns, waiting for petals of time to open on the late bus. They flash rotten-toothed grins

at me, offer to carry my luggage, wonder where I’m going.

Nobody knows me and I am nobody and I don’t know me.

Time chips away like bus station paint, a mental institution on wheels. I cry

with laughter. We’re all bones, covered in a sheen of weary skin

little fuses everywhere, and candleholders of silence.

And I will feel this moment but not remember it,

a garden of hours, blooming clocks, hallucinations, creaky restroom doors,

laying down my burdens in a line of skinny men.

The road writes my pages and I will never know

the shallows and depths and stories

they told me in the cage of walls, in the shape of the night.

 

Paper-shrouded windows

the click and fire of nail guns

under the pressure of my sweaty thumbs—

it wasn’t long ago we filled a spiritless shell of a house

with noise, saws, the smell of wooden sweat.

Men on a rooftop, pulling up screws with Sherri, listening to

Christian singers wail about Jesus from the radio,

everyone sweating out their Gatorade

and carrying acrid shingles to fling in the dumpster.

Mr. Sam and Miss Jeanette lived in a trailer next door

with a ramp for her wheelchair,

and they came out every day to pray with us,

Miss Jeanette in her flowered housedress and folding her dark rose lips

in amens. She’d had a stroke, breast cancer twice,

paralysis from a vaccine, and lived through

two hurricanes—Katrina and Ida. Mr. Sam

said she’d sit helpless in the bed of his pickup truck while he scooped mud

from his beloved house in shovelfuls—by hand.

And what did they have but prayers, chinaball trees,

green summer lemons, mercy work next door?

What did I know about why I came here

as I chose to be gone from my home for the first time,

and why did I scrawl those strange lyrics on the underside

of a plywood board on their ceiling?

I felt ashamed and hot and weepy,

punching nails into boards

one by one, waiting to pass by

this broken gate of heat and the house

I knew I’d never

see again.


The author's comments:

This is a poetic description of my first solo volunteering trip and the feelings I had while riding along the road.


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