I am waiting an uncomfortable hour for a bus to a valley town in Colorado.
The somewhat disjointed guy in the old army jacket and fuzzy hat starts speaking almost indecipherable words and stands on one foot, whirling a little in the middle of the wide concourse, addressing no one.
Not the frightened couple over there, not the lady with the grey-blonde hair on her phone beside me, not me. We glance around. The guy sleeping on the floor, with the big white spotted hound beside him — he’s gone now. He woke and left without anyone noticing, leaving a tiny spill of some kind behind.
This guy’s got a lot of energy. His coat flies out as he performs. You have to wonder what the face of his demons look like, right? I felt the same way once watching a good friend who had drunk way too much champagne and was laughing above the voluble in a purposefully maniacal way for way too many riffs. Smiles and winces.
Now, though, he has accosts the lady and, outside my bad hearing, asks if he can use her phone.
No, she says, you can’t use my phone, I’m sorry, I just can’t —
There is more talk.
No, I don’t need that.
She dials a number. I hear the rings go on and on.
No answer, she tells him. The conversation is taking place over her shoulder.
She speaks in an understandably unnatural way:
I’m calling for Dan, who says he is–he is your brother and that he is in the Denver bus station, Union Station…and he needs some help. Okay thanks — bye.
She looks at me. I don’t usually consciously, like, know what is expressed by my face, but I know there was a sympathetic look on my face at that moment.
I see that she has a slightly bulbous nose, like Helen Mirren’s nose in many ways. She give a slight shake of her head and puts her phone away.
We are all of us fiddlers with our phones, aren’t we.
She gets the phone out in a bit after the guy has whirled off with a Thank you!Thankyou!Thankyou! bouncing and staggering purposefully from one spot to another along the walls of the concourse, his words sometimes a repetitive murmur, sometimes loud upshouts. He is alternatively curled up and then uncurls, his face stretched upward to the ceiling lights. The green jacket flies out; his eyes appear to be unopened and he bumps into an affixed garbage can. Others dodge him.
The older man who has been waiting with his wife comes up to stand near me:
Where are the cops when you need them?
Nobody says anything. The bus arrives.
It’s empty and we pile on. The driver stands before us, a youth of perhaps thirty, his blondish red beard sparse but long and his eyes green-blue and clear.
I’m Gus, your driver today. This is my first trip and I hope you enjoy it. The weather looks great. If you need anything, please ask me.
Most of the passengers exit the bus along the route, which is only a few hours. The lady with the grey-blonde hair and the barely bulbous nose rides to the terminus: down the valleys so flat at first but soon ascending to an area where we pass through a collection of remote villages like Fairplay and Salida, up and over the snowy divide, passing through remote little towns that often appear to be nothing more than the random collection of compounds. Perhaps some were farms.
In Buena Vista the bus made a stop near a trailer park, and I wondered what it would be like there, with such an insanely beautiful view of the mountains superimposed on the life of a dilapidated space like this. I was later told that the trailers function of housing for out of state workers brought in to work specifically in Buena Vista.
The scary beauty of the pass passage inevitably has me wondering about Gus’s training, its length and extravagance. Or does he just drive a huge vehicle a few times with another, more experienced driver, who certifies Gus. Would he have ingested a THC chocolate bar, as had I? I stare at the back of Gus’s head for good luck.
I want to start a conversation by asking my co-passenger about the guy she’d made the phone call for, but I decide I need not disturb this anonymous woman’s peace a second time today.
Today may not be my luckiest day.