Yes, I’m very curious, actually.
Andrew lifts away from the seat and pulls the sleeve of his left arm over the tattoo, revealing a phoenix with a long, flowing beautiful feathered tail that ends a couple of inches past where his sleeve ends. But the rest of its feathered body is skeletal, giving it a more ‘manly’ appearance.
“That’s pretty awesome.”
“Thanks. I’ve had this one about a year,” he says, pulling the sleeve back down. “And this one,” he says, turning at the waist and pulling up the other sleeve (first, I notice the obvious outline of his abs underneath his shirt), “is my gnarly, Sleepy-Hollow-lookin’ tree—I have a thing for wicked trees—and if you’ll look real close…,” I peer closer where his finger points within the tree trunk, “is my 1969 Chevy Camaro. My dad’s car, really, but since he’s dying I guess I have to keep it.” He looks out in front of him.
There it is, that tiny glimmer of pain that he kept hidden before when talking about his father. He’s hurting a lot more than he’s letting on and it sort of breaks my heart. I can’t imagine my mom or dad being on their deathbed and I’m sitting on Greyhound bus on my way to see them for the last time. My eyes scan his face from the side and I really want to say something to comfort him, but I don’t think I can. I don’t feel like it’s my place for some reason; at least not to bring it up.
“I’ve got a couple of others,” he goes on, looking back over at me with the back of his head lying against the seat again. “A small one here,” he turns over his right wrist to show me a simple black star in the center right below the base of his hand; I’m surprised I didn’t notice that one sooner. “And a larger one down the left side of my ribs.”
“What is it, the one on your side? How big is it?”
His bright green eyes sparkle as he smiles warmly, tilting his head over to see me. “It’s pretty damn big,” I see his hands move as if he’s going to lift his shirt to show me, but he decides against it. “It’s just a woman. Nothing worth getting nak*d on a bus for.”
Now I want to see what it looks like more than ever, just because he doesn’t want me to see it.
“A woman you know?” I ask. I keep looking to and from his side, thinking maybe he’ll change his mind and lift his shirt, but he never does.
He shakes his head. “Nah, it’s nothing like that. It’s of Eurydice.” He waves his hand out in front of him as if to dismiss any further explanation.
The name sounds like something ancient, maybe Greek, and it’s vaguely familiar, but I can’t place it.
I nod. “Did it hurt?”
“A little. Well actually it hurts the most on the ribs, so yeah it hurt.”
“Did you cry?” I grin.
He laughs lightly.
“No, I didn’t cry, but hell, I might’ve if I decided to get it even a fraction bigger than it is. In total, it took about sixteen hours.”
I blink back, stunned. “Wow, you sat there for sixteen hours?”
For such a detailed conversation about this tat, it makes me wonder why he won’t actually show it. Maybe it doesn’t look all that great and the tattoo artist screwed it up, or something.
“Not all at once,” he says, “we did it over a few days’ time—I’d ask if you have any tattoos, but something tells me that you don’t.” He smiles, knowingly.
“And you’d be right,” I say, blushing a little. “Not that I’ve never thought about getting one.” I hold up my wrist and wrap my thumb and middle finger around it. “Thought about getting something here, like script that says ‘freedom’ or something in Latin—obviously, I didn’t think about it much.” Smiling, I breathe out a little embarrassed spat of air. Me talking about tattoos with a guy who obviously knows more about them than I ever could is a bit intimidating.
When I go to set my wrist back down on the armrest, Andrew’s fingers curl around it. It stuns me for a brief second, even sends a strange chill through my body, but it quickly fades when he starts talking so casually.
“A tattoo on the wrist for a girl can be very graceful and feminine.” He traces the tip of his finger around the inside of my wrist to indicate where it should go. I shiver a tiny bit. “Something in Latin, very subtle, just about here would look nice.” Then he lets go gently and I let my arm rest back on the armrest.
“I expected you to say ‘no way’ about ever getting one yourself,” he laughs and brings up his leg, resting it at the ankle on his knee. He interlaces his fingers and slides back further against the seat to get more comfortable.
It’s getting dark fast; the sun is barely peeking over the landscape now, leaving everything bathed in fading orange and pink and purple.
“Guess I’m not a predictable person.” I smile over at him.
“No, I guess you’re not,” he says smiling back and then looking thoughtfully in front of him.
Andrew wakes me up the next day sometime after 2:00p.m. at the bus station in Cheyenne, Wyoming. I feel his fingers poking me in the ribs. “We’re here,” he says and finally I open my eyes and lift my head from the window.
My breath I know smells God awful because it tastes dry and funky so I look away from him when I yawn.
The bus’ brakes squeal to a stop at the terminal and like always, the passengers stir themselves out of their seats and start grabbing their carry-on bags from the overhead compartment. I just sit here, feeling a little panicked and I glance carefully over at Andrew. I literally feel like I’m going to have a mini-anxiety attack. I mean, I knew this time would come, that Andrew would leave and I would be alone again, but I didn’t expect to feel like a scared little girl sent out in the world to fend for herself with no one to look after her.
Shit! Shit! Shit!
I can’t even believe I let myself get comfortable with him and as a result I’m no longer able to make fear my bitch.
I fear being alone.
“Comin’?” he asks looking down at me from the center aisle and holding out his hand. He smiles at me gently, setting aside any smartass remarks or making jokes at my expense because, after all, it is the last time we will ever see each other. It’s not like we’re in love or something crazy like that, but something weird happens when you spend several days with a stranger on a bus, getting to know them and enjoying their company. And when they’re not so different from you and you share that bond without actually telling one another why you’re hurting, that just makes the inevitable departure more difficult.
But I can’t let him know this. It’s stupid. I put myself in this situation and I intend to go through with it. No matter where in the world it eventually leads me.
I smile back up at him and place my hand into his. And all the way down the aisle as he walks in front of me, he keeps my fingers clasped carefully within his hand from behind. And I find a sense of warmth in his touch, clinging onto it mentally for as long as I can so that maybe I can be more confident when I’m alone again.
“Well, Camryn…” he looks at me as if fishing for my last name.
“Bennett.” I smile and cave to my own rule.
“Well, Camryn Bennett, it was a pleasure to meet you on the road to nowhere.” He adjusts his bag strap on his shoulder and then slides his hands down inside the pockets of his jeans. The muscles in his arms harden. “I hope you find what you’re looking for.”
I try to smile and I do, but I know it looks like something in-between a smile and a frown.
I adjust the strap from my purse on one shoulder and my sling bag on the other and then just let my arms hang limply at my sides.
“It was nice meeting you, too, Andrew Parrish,” I say, though I don’t want to say it. I want him to ride with me just a little farther. “Do me a favor if you don’t mind.”
I’ve piqued his curiosity and he cocks his chin a little to one side. “Alright. What kind of favor? Is it sexual?” His dimples deepen as his devilishly handsome lips start to curve.
I laugh a little and look down with a blush hot on my face, but then I let the moment fade because this really isn’t a lighthearted kind of request. Instead, I soften my expression and look upon him with true sympathy.
“If your dad doesn’t make it,” I begin and his expression falls, “let yourself cry, OK? One of the worst feelings in the world is being unable to cry and eventually it…starts to make things darker.”
He stares at me for a long, silent moment and then he nods, allowing a tiny thankful smile to appear only in the depths of his eyes. I reach out my hand to shake his goodbye and he does the same, but he holds it there for a second longer than normal and then pulls me into a hug. I hug him back tight, wishing I could just blurt out to him that I’m scared of him leaving me alone, but I know I can’t.
Suck it up, Camryn!
He pulls away, nods at me one last time with that smile I grew so quickly to like and then he walks away and out of the terminal. I stand here for what feels like forever, unable to move my legs. I watch him get into a cab and I keep watching until the cab drives away and out of sight.
I’m alone again. Over a thousand miles away from home. No direction, no purpose, no goals other than to find myself on this journey I never imagined I could bring myself to begin. And I’m scared. But I have to do this. I have to because I need this time alone, away from everything back home which brought me here in the first place.
Finally, I take control again and walk away from the tall glass windows to find a seat. There’s a four hour layover before I get on the next bus into Idaho, so I need to find something to make use of my time.
I hit the vending machines first.
Sliding my change into the slot I start to hit E4 to get the fiber bar—the closest thing to healthy in the whole machine—but then my finger makes a sharp U-turn to hit D4 instead and a fattening, disgusting, sugary chocolate candy bar falls from the spiral and into the bottom. Happily taking out my junk food, I move over to the soda machine, passing up the one before it which has bottles of water and juice, and I get a teeth-decaying, stomach bubbling, carbonated drink instead.
Andrew would be so proud.
Dammit! Stop thinking about Andrew!
I take my junk food and find an empty seat and wait out the day.
A four hour delay turns into a six hour delay. They announced it over the intercom, something about my particular bus being late due to mechanical failure. A chorus of disappointed moans rises throughout the terminal.
Great. Just great. I’m stuck in a bus station in the middle of nowhere and I could very well end up here all night, trying to sleep curled up in the fetal position on this hard plastic chair that’s not even comfortable for sitting.
Or, I could just go ahead and buy another bus ticket somewhere else.
That’s it! Problem solved!
I just wish I would’ve thought of this sooner and spared myself the six hours I’ve already wasted here. It’s like I tricked my brain somehow into thinking I actually had to drive all the way to frickin’ Idaho just because I already paid for the ticket.