AS THE WHEELS TURN
Quick decision. I’m going. When? Tomorrow. No time to change my mind. Get on the phone and make the reservation now. No! I can’t do this. It’s been so long; will I even be welcome? Do it. The bus comes at last. If it had been late I’m not sure my resolve would not have faltered. The driver loads my suitcase. Just one; all my possessions; not much to show for ten years in the city. People hug and kiss, happy, sad. Alone I climb aboard trying not to look. I choose a seat right at the back hoping no-one will sit next to me. I still have time to get off. No, it is time to do this.
The city slides past as we turn onto the freeway. Some good memories, not that many, bitterness, failure, loneliness. Happiness torn to shreds by her sudden betrayal. I wonder if she is still in the city here somewhere. Does she think of me? Probably not. Best to try to forget. I’m leaving all that behind me now.
Out in the open country and I think of the e-mail I sent, “I’m coming by bus, Greyhound, Thursday. Can you meet me?” I should have said more; did not have the courage.
Should have brought something to read. Bored. Another eighteen hours to go. Sheep in a paddock. The grass is lush, they must have had some rain. See, I still think like a country boy. Why did I leave? No choice really or that is what I had told myself. No future on the land, drought, debt, relentless hard work. Life in the city easy, fun. The pull of the bright lights had been irresistible. As I look at the passing countryside memories come flooding back, the shearing shed full of noise and activity, milking the cow on a cold frosty morning, fresh baked bread direct from the oven.
Comfort stop, fifteen minutes, don’t be late, get off, stretch and join the queue for the loo. That rhymes. Buy a paper. Luke warm pies, sausage rolls, limp sandwiches in a coffin of plastic, ten varieties of coke a cola and a pimply faced youth who asks, “Watcha want?” Nothing thanks.
As the wheels turn time seems to slow down. The paper has been read and passed to a fellow passenger who asked, “You finished with that mate?” Sound recedes, becomes the gentle lapping of waves on a stony beach, she is walking away, I want to follow but can’t, she does not look back. A loud voice intrudes, the driver, we are stopped, “Those of you travelling further check at the transit counter. Thank you for choosing Greyhound.”
Waiting room; children scamper, some read, others just stare into their personal abyss, backpackers chatter.... Germans, not sure. I have to get out; three hours is too long to sit. Walk aimlessly; suddenly hungry. McDonalds; cardboard box, cardboard circle, cardboard bun, cardboard meat, tiny salty chips in a paper container. Walk again, feeling better. Small town, small town people. Some nod, some stare at the stranger. Darkness and cold drive me back to the waiting room.
Finally on the last leg, smaller bus, elderly gentleman beside me, says hi, then settles back and sleeps. Dark night, feel like I’m in a dim time capsule rocking and bumping though a black void on its way to an unknown future. Occasionally headlights flash past like comets in the dark.
Try to sleep as the wheels turn. An hour gone by? No, the luminous hands of my watch say ten minutes. Don’t look at the watch. The coming dawn tears a long bright strip in the darkness of the night that slowly turns to red. My body aches, my head is full of half remembered dreams. Not long now.
Then there they are at the side of the road beside a dusty, battered four wheel drive. My father tall and ramrod straight, my mother, grey hair now, searching the windows, looking for me. Down the steps, my mother’s warm embrace, my father’s firm handshake. “Welcome home son.”