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Travailing By Greyhound III
The long awaited third instalment.
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0430hrs or thereabouts.
Pretty sure every single person on this bus is asleep except for me and spark plug at the helm, who didn't make it more than fifteen minutes into the drive before beating on his horn in a passable imitation of a man in an electric chair.
Atop the rotary hum of the bus’s tires, enveloped by deep breathing and delicate respirations and the occasional fog horn-like snore, the cumulative effect is oceanic.
I am both curious and pissed off about the ease with which seemingly everyone but me is enjoying some lights-out even though these seats are chiropractically sadistic, not to mention. . . soiled, as it were.
We dropped off a couple of people in El Monte and Claremont, then picked up a few in San Bernardino, but we’ve yet to make a stop. Per the itinerary on my phone, Phoenix will be the first time we’re able to get off the bus, and that’s still like 300 miles away, which means we have ourselves what you might call a bit of a situation here.
I have to piss like a racehorse. I mean, it’s bad.
And the psychological aspect of this predicament has been tortuous, to put it mildly, because it’s been the sort of bathroom emergency that feeds on attention—an accretive unease that begins very slowly, just an annoyance at first, no big deal; but the urge inexorably intensifies, nibbling at your conscience until you can’t help but fixate on it, and before you know it you have a legitimate Stage V crisis on your hands.
Crisis? Yes, crisis.
At the present moment, I am without recourse.
There’s a perfectly good bus bathroom available for use; nothing wrong with it, as far as I know. The problem is that my egress is thoroughly obstructed at the moment. Jaden is blocking it and she’s unconscious. Well, asleep, I suppose. Technically. But I'm beginning to suspect her comatosity, if you will, has been barbiturately enhanced, as waking her has been an exercise in futility and she’s been making alarming snorts of the sort that would make a dog leave the couch and shelter under the kitchen table.
And mind you, this is not a simple matter of just standing up and making myself skinny so as to squeeze past and not wake her up. Jaden is what you might call. . . zaftig.
. . . Warm in the winter, shady in the summer. Spread out like a cold supper. Shakes but doesn’t rattle. Thick as fleas on a farm dog. Radiant with cholesterol and contentment. A walking testimonial to American consumerism in all its excess.
The woman is sensationally overweight, okay? There. I said it.
The monumental mass we’re talking about here is not easy to convey. She’d be a dead-ringer for Lizzo if Lizzo were about 25% more fleshier.
So no, there’s no “gap” through which to maneuver; her legs are snugly wedged against the back of the seat in front of her, nary a crevice in sight. Which means I have to do this the old-fashioned way and be the irritating guy who wakes up his seatmate because he needs to get out and conduct his business.
Except the old-fashioned way isn’t working. My gentle whispers of “Excuse me. . .” and “Hey, Jaden. . .” are floating off into the ether.
I could put out a house fire with the contents of my bladder right now.
I even deign to lean in and intrude on her personal space a little, which I'm reluctant to do since she’s got her arms crossed and locked and propped in a shelf under her bosom in an instinctive gesture of protection, like a defensive posture, and I get the impression that this is not a woman to be summoned on false alarm. To say nothing of the very distinct vibe, an ambience in the coach that leads me to believe beyond any shadow of a doubt that many if not most of these people have little to lose and are therefore exceptionally immune to consequences or the potential thereof.
I really don’t feel comfortable, like, shaking the woman awake, but inertia and not making a mess of myself are no longer mutually tenable, and so I very gently place a hand on her 22-inch bicep and give a teensy weensy shake, and that’s when she says something that more or less leaves me stunned for a moment—she says, “Touch me again.”
Not like, “Oh, I like that, do it again.” Get your head out of the gutter. But like, “Bitch, I will stab you.”
And combined with the statement’s brevity, her tone is absolutely that of a woman who’s very probably done time for stabbing someone for much less.
Alright, so obviously I’m not looking to test that assumption.
But I’ve officially approached the precipice and am poised to do a high-angle psychic nose-dive and need with all due regard for Jaden to move in the direst fucking way.
And so I finally decide to go over her or fail trying, propping my right leg on my seat and extending my left so that it’s planted in the aisle, but for reasons that have to do with yours truly being built low to the ground I find myself in a physically unsustainable position and proceed to lose my balance so that I have to swing my other leg wildly over and precariously close to the person’s head who’s just dared me to touch her again, nearly giving her an MMA-style roundhouse kick to the dome, and the only reason I manage not to fall flat on my face is because I latch onto the dude’s headrest across the way to stabilize myself, and this in turn startles the seat occupant, waking him up from what was doubtless some quality shuteye, and based on the bleary-eyed scowl this guy gives me it’s quite clear that I’ve effectively courted death, and I make a mental note to keep my head on a swivel when we get to Phoenix.
I make my way to the bathroom, which is only like 5 meters away but still requires a delicate combination of balance and timing because I'm moving against the bus’s direction of travel and my legs feel like they end at my knees, and I’m forced to use more headrests to steady myself so that I end up earning the undying enmity of basically the whole back half of the bus along with a deluge of wanton invective from a guy who gives me a look like the business end of a Glock, and the entire incident is incredibly exhausting and angst-fraught and embarrassing, and just thinking about it makes me feel nauseated.
And so but of course this fiasco has yet to end, because it turns out that the commode in the rear of the bus is, shall we say, hazardous.
Specifically, the door. Some schematic genius designed the bathroom so that the entry remains open until you step inside and press the glowing red DOOR button, at which point it closes laterally, sliding with an audible woosh not unlike a set of furious windshield wipers.
It’s all fine and dandy until I’m actually inside the lavatory.
The first issue I’m presented with is that the aforementioned architect with the intellect of a fence post has failed to include a light (!?) within what is essentially a very compact closet with a hand sanitizer dispenser that’s even more claustrophobic than your standard airplane restroom and only has what looks to be a 4x12in Alcatraz slit for a window to the upper left, pretty much useless now since it's still the middle of the night.
Ergo, I’m resigned to using the flashlight of my phone with one hand while conducting business with the other, breathing in only through the mouth because the smell in here exceeds my vernacular; it literally bankrupts my vocabulary.
Keep in mind this is on a moving bus being driven by the ornery critter lookalike up front who we can say with some level of certainty is not the steadiest sail on the psychic sea. The dude is driving the bus like he stole it.
Which is to say that it takes considerable concentration and leg strength to steel oneself whilst attending to business with one hand controlling the action and the other holding a flashlight, and I am in medias res, so to speak, intensely focused on releasing this positively Niagara-esque stream of urine when it dawns on me that the bathroom designer, who could not by even the most charitable stretch of the imagination be described as prudent, has placed the DOOR button at exactly the shoulder height of someone vertically challenged like yours truly, so that rocking even the slightest bit to starboard will make said shoulder touch said button.
And so but yes this is of course exactly what happens.
Yours truly is sent lurching to the right when the endomorph behind the wheel suddenly brakes and turns sharply to the left, and I'm maybe at the halfway point, which is like the point when the affluence is strong enough to serve as the weapon of choice in those carnival games where you shoot water into the clown’s mouth until the balloon fills up and explodes, and as the door wooshes open I drop my phone to the floor and let out a strangled cry that’s more school boy than man, and as I’m frantically stabbing at the DOOR button I look out to see the dude who’s been racked out on the elongated last row and very clearly in the midst of a peaceful slumber, and I can tell I just woke him up, and we make dreadfully awkward eye contact as he squinches below a furrowed brow.
I finally get the door closed. When I’m finished and ricky-tick out of the Guantanamo-worthy chamber, embarrassment washes over me like a bucket of ice water.
People aren't just awake, they're turned around and waiting for me to exit, each with their own unique physiognomic conveyance of the same shared message: “Dude, what the fuck are you doing.”
It dawns on me that this does not augur well for the duration of the trip, and I foresee myself being as tense as a smoker with a three-pack-a-day habit on a cross-country flight.
I nod and affect a fixed smile, almost whispering good morning before I stop myself and instead repeat, “Sorry. Sorry about that.”
I get to my row and lo and behold, guess who’s up. Jaden directs me to step aside because now she has to use the bathroom. Because of course.
I oblige and then sit down, keenly aware of all the eyes burrowing into the back of my head.
Jaden has left her purse unattended on the floor. There’s an empty bottle of NyQuil — the velvet hammer of temporary retardation; the insomniacs’ ambrosia — sticking out of the front lip.