We woke up on the bus to the sound of the engine on idle. The driver was gone and snow was coming down. It was, I was thinking, late in the year for snow and I even checked the month on the paper in the box. Middle of May, middle of Montana and I don’t know if it's normal, but it was snowing. I hadn’t brought my coat, so I put my hands in my pockets and hunched my shoulders and stamped my feet awake.
An older man and I looked at the advertisements pinned to the board by the door and talked about auction season, auctions and auctioneers. He said the driver was sitting in the kitchen and saying we weren’t gonna move until he got the all-clear call. Driver was sitting on a stool slumping against the wall waiting for the phone. They said how he was falling asleep, all last night, falling out our lane and then waking up and jerking back over. All you can do, the older man said, trying to temper the kids who sat in the back and made jokes about toking up, who were saying how they should just leave this driver and drive this damn bus away, all you can do, you can’t do anything, but be patient.
What’s the time, I said to the waitress inside, and she said going on 4:30.
I was thinking how once a man like that older man told me that people talk all wrong about travel. When they come back they say I saw this and went there and then and they don’t normally say about the waiting. In the movies, and the stories, and the family videos, the plane just takes off and then it lands, the train turns around two scenic corners and comes into the station. The car goes under a bridge at sunset. And if they say anything about waiting, they’re complaining, because everybody believes in teleportation and trains that run on time.
There ain’t no reason, the sleep-headed girl said, that we can’t be driving. He just doesn’t want to. Lazy ass son of a. You can see cars out there driving on the highway. I can’t miss this connection. But of course, you always can. What are you gonna do? There are lines, delays, and detours. Hang ups, break downs, lay overs and late storms, and all you can do is either get mad thinking about how this isn’t what traveling was supposed to be and how now everything’s ruined, or you can pass the time. Sometimes it’s just that way, where traveling’s not about going anywhere.
This is one of those stops the bus always makes, both ways. Some diner outside some town and I remember it from last time. Place has a bowling alley in the back, pretty unforgettable. So I ordered breakfast. And whatcha wanna drink, honey the waitress said and I said coffee. One of the locals was telling a story about a pickup truck. She bummed a cigarette off a him and went back to sweeping the floor. I drank coffee and built a pyramid out of little cups of jam.