Friday, January 23, 2009

The Bus Ride

Penned in September 1996

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I sat watching a desert sunrise, reflecting on my life thus far, and absorbed my new surroundings. New Mexico, a barren desert, was a far cry from Hawai'is endless beaches and squawking mynah birds. The beauty of the rising sun entranced me and held me spellbound. It was new to see the sun rise from the earth: a horizon made of land. My sense were ablaze, excited with new sensations, and drowned by the unfamiliar existence.

I left Hawai'i in hopes of finding a different life and New Mexico seemed to fill all the criteria. I loved being in the New Mexico desert but getting there was the memorable part. It was my first bus ride alone. If anyone has ever been on a Greyhound but at Christmas time, you can relate to the chaos.

I think back to that Christmas season in 1994. It was an odd time to leave Hawai'i - my comfort zone, but I felt that if I didn't leave then, I would never leave. I arrived in San Francisco two weeks before Christmas, spent time with some friends, and moved on ahead. I had the choice of either flying to New Mexico on a two hour flight or riding a Greyhound bus for a day and a half. I opted for the bus ride.

Upon entering that crowded bus, I summoned all the courage I had in me to ask a lonely occupant, if the other half of his seat was vacant. It wasn't as hard as I had figured. I tried to get as comfortable as the seat would allow, after all, it was going to be a long trip. I recall sitting there in fascination. I wondered where she had been and where he had been. I wondered where he was going or where she was going. Each one of us had a story to tell.

Bubba was his name and he was an African-American gentleman on his way home after seventeen years away. He was seated across the aisle.

"I just want some home cookin' from mama's grill and I'll be the happiest man alive," he exclaimed.

And that is how we met. Through the hills and all along the California coast we talked. From Hayward to Los Angeles. This comprised six hours of conversation about absolutely nothing and everything. I enjoyed his company and was regretful about separating. He is a genuine character in the pages of my life.

The Pacific Ocean mocked me ans I talked with Bubba.

"Come and taste of my living waters one last time," she whispered.

"Feel the gentle sway of my waves. There is no ocean for you in New Mexico."

Over and over she called out. Her constant taunts aroused a feeling of homesickness in me and I wanted to turn back.

"You from Hawai'i? I saw you flipping tru' yo' book and I seen you' Hawai'i license." A man stood in front of me. Obviously his English was heavily accented with Hawaiian pidgin. I gleamed in response to his inquiry and his use of pidgin. When you're from Hawai'i and you're far from your island home and you meet someone else from Hawai'i, automatically there is a bond. There's that "localness". That spirit. We chatted for a while the he went back to his seat. Before he left, he patted my shoulder and said, "Aloha sista! You take care."

Throughout my journey I encountered diverse characters and people but none were so beautiful to me as the driver of the last leg of my tri. He reminded me of the grandfathers I never knew. His face wore years of hard work but his voice was that of a high school graduate with his entire life ahead of him. There was no conflict in his speech, just energy and youth. His sweet spirit spoke to my own and I felt comforted in his closeness. With a Spanish accent and a humble manner he pleaded with me, "love your family and do all that you can to make yor home a shelter from the storms." Nearly tearful, I shook his hand and gave him a kiss of fondest aloha and departed from him. The strong features of his face are etched in my mind and his sweet words are carved on my heart.

Faces and personalities; Characters and traits; I saw them all on the Greyhound bus. We all shared a common quality. We were running away from something and at the same time, we were all reaching for something else.

So there I sat, watching the sun set on the arid desert. I reflected on my life thus far and I remembered. New Mexico was worlds away from Hawai'i but I loved it. It was common now to see the sun drop into the earth; a horizon made of land. My senses were satisfied and my unfamiliarity became comfort.

1 comment:

Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much said...

wow! I love this piece! I love the use of discriptive imagery of nature and the people with whom you met on the bus. You must have been really in tune to your emotions and feelings when you wrote this. I hardly ever pay attention to people when ever I'm in a public place. Perhaps I should start and maybe then I'll find inspiration from them as well.