Christmas Eve 2010 / by Kerri McGill

I told your Mom you're coming home- nothing else...
~Is she okay with it?~
yes.very happy.  

This was a relief as I had made sucha big deal about telling her I was NOT going to be at Christmas.  We spent the whole day together.  I made dinner.  I told her over tea...She gave me a funeral hug on the way out, you know, the long lingering  type used in heavy emotional situations, as opposed to our usual frat-boy hug - one arm wrap with a back tap.  Ha, all that effort and now I'm coming back.

As my uncle and I text, the sun rises, warming the  Greyhound bus on my 5am ride.  The manajory of bus smells intensifies- tired travelers, stale food, tobacco smoke, body odor, all more pungent.  These observations become overwhelming as I call  DUA to reinstate my unemployment.  I'm in my wallmart sweats that I bought when my friend's boyfriend locked us out of the house two nights before in a fit of rage.  Could I be in a more white trash moment right now?

At least I'm on the bus.  Thank God for Deb! hauling my ass to the bus station at 4:30am!  It didn't occur to me they'd have a security check before getting on the bus.  The line was so long I thought for sure I'd miss it...not to mention I have a bag with snap blades in it.  (I use them to sharpen my drawing pencils.  When it was my turn, I held the mixed bag to the security, pencils on top, blades in the palm of my hand.) 

On arriving, I'm happy to see this bus station has lockers, even after 911.  I call the hostel to let them know they won't have to hold my luggage for me.  I hear the releif in the girl's voice.  She's kind- but noone wants to oblige strange requests on Christmas eve.  I change in the ladies room from comfy cotton and sneaks to spashy polyester and pleather pumps, mash my belongings in the locker, save my wallet, lipstick and  the plastic red moneybag that reads "show me the money".  I pull out my yellow legal pad itinerary and find my way to the local buses. I was glad I chose this outfit over the shiny club dress.  Conservative as it was, the look drew hollers from the locals- the kind that started their drinking before noon.  

It's a straight shot from the station to my destination, but I'm nervous.  I watch the arrow inch up the map's line.  I ask the driver about my stop even though GPS says it's a way's off.  I don't trust my fancy map phone.  Good thing.  The driver immedialtely pulls over.  We had passed it two blocks ago. 

I had a great visit!  All the trouble and money to change flights, find a bus - all worth my little two hour visit.  I leave beaming.  With a good 20 minutes til the next bus, I drop into a bar and trade my story for a beer.  An enourmous black man(very proud of the size of his toungue) and his plain pale girlfriend and I are the only ones.  Timing - perfect! 

I head to the bus pockets- no bus pass- back to the bar - not there either-- and out the door again to see the bus zoom by- not even slowing down!   Back to the bar, where my latest edition gets me another free round while I figure things out.  The next bus in an hour.  I am now in danger of missing my flight out.  The bartender says a train is much faster.  The station is a 20 min walk.  The next train is in 20 minutes.  So that works out nicely..... I dash out. 

It's not warm. 65 degrees. But it's FLA dammit.
This place is all highway and nothing.  They do provide sidewalks - not a usual highway acrutriment.  I start jogging in my pleather pumps by the side of the highway, polyester blouse flopping about me.  I follow the bartender's directions but  nothing fits his description.  I run in a bar- This one's pretty full for a sunny afternoon...
~Hey wheres the train station?~
 Oh it's through the parking lot, behind the next building.
~ I'll be back if I miss my train~
 We hope you miss your train!! says a chorus.
~Fuck you!~
I dash away.

I see posts!  I hear the train!  I see a cement wall, 5ft high and like amilion miles long.  I grab a tree branch and fling myself over.  The train rolls in.  I'm on the wrong side and there is another wire fence dividing the two sides.  I yell to a very large black woman  "Hold the train if I don't get over there!!"  If anyone could stop a train this chick could.... I dash by the ticket kyosk and into the train.  I sit very erect with my makeshift paperbag purse ready for the conducter...ready to play the dumb card...
~I'd like to buy a ticket please.~  to a perfect vision of a train conductor, white man in his late 50s, thick perfect mustache, the whole get-up, hat and all...His slight wince and tight smile calls me on my attempt.  
Thats not how it works Dear.
~I'm so sorry. I'm a little flustered today.  I've been traveling since 5am, bussed down from Orlando, to fit a visit in to a friend in jail before he gets deported and I fly back up to Boston.. They're predicting snow storms too...(exasperated sigh)  How is your Christmas Eve?~  His face softens and he sits down across from me.
Oh Dear!  You must have gotten on at the Myrtle stop...
~No.  I got on at the last stop.~
He sighs and with an exagerated air 
I said you must have gotten on at the Myrtle stop...The one with the broken ticket printer
~No.  I got on at the - ohhhh. Yes. that's exactly where I got on.~
A smile of aproval and we fall into a pleasant banter.  He is from Oregon, did plenty of military service traveled to Haitii and other places and retired to FLA because he loves the weather. 
 " You have to love the weather... The people are assholes.  No one told me I was moving to South South Jersey."

He flirts a little, as a rougish older man will do, telling me to stay and if only he were younger and this and that.. I had to shake a bus # out of him.  I need a bus to get back to my locker and then to my flight.  Nothing's far away,  but I'm unfamiliar and a misrouted move can jeapordize my plans.  The jog to the train was my one mishap.  I can't afford another.

I get to a line of buses, all with closed doors and no #s.  I looked so visibly confused one of the doors swings open.
I jokingly say "Are you my bus?"  A thick island accent says, " I'll take you where you need to go."  He says the bus station is close-by, no problem.  Others get on, about five others.  He drops each one off.  I feel the panic of time passing.  I am the last on the bus.  "Is it up here?"  " Why do you want to leave?  Boston is cold.  I don't want you to leave."  I realize this bus driver may not be as helpful as I supposed.  We seem to be driving in circles. Now I'm pissed.  

I lean over him and say in a low voice, " If I end up missing that flight,  I'll make you wish I hadn't"  I'm not very big, and I don't think that even made much sense...but I was menacing enough that he "remembered" where the bus station was pretty quickly. 

Grab my stuff...grab a cab...add some whiskey to my travel mug of tea.  Get to the airport with 5 minutes to spare.  It doesn't take me that to finish my tea and go through security.  Yes.  They pull my empty travel mug to examine it for what? I don't even know.  
~It's not a bomb !!- It's a toddy!!~ 
They don't put whiskey in their tea in Florida.

I made it back in time for Christmas brunch and mass.