I sat inside the bus terminal waiting. There were only a few of us sprinkled along the rows. Dim lights hung from the ceiling, sound far away waiting for the sun to rise. Cold slipped through our clothes into our bones; rigid and expecting we waited for the bus, for its headlights to drench us in its rays. I wondered what I’d find in Patterson. M had been so brief over the phone, but she had said that Sebastian Margolis, her father, wanted to see me. I imagined him, bearded, soft spoken, saddened by mother’s death, sitting across the table from me telling one story after another about her. Thoughts of him being just like my mother—chaotic, haunted, lost–I pushed away.
When the bus arrived we scuttled out the door back into the darkness where one by one we climbed the steps and took our seats. The bus roared, tugging us down the highway. I sat in my seat watching city turn to town as morning crept in, its orange sun beautifully painted at the bottom of the sky. People stirred, their voices slowly rising over the engine. Conversations, jovial, serious, and silly, mingled like grains of sand. For two and a half days we floated in and out of motion and stillness; the bus rumbled along flat and uneven pavement, stopping at convenience stores just long enough for us to get food and freshen up in cold, dirty bathrooms.
Hours blurred, marring light until darkness returned. Each time my view of wide open fields was replaced with my own reflection: a stranger, long faced, deflated, eyes held captive by longing. Wrapped in time, its magical hands, I slipped in an out of awareness, otherness taking over, an all-consuming violation, wanting at its peak. I closed my eyes and Sage was there to greet me in my dreams.
“Life is slippery,” she said. We sat arm in arm on the old porch, looking out at the long dusty street, waiting, not expecting, just waiting.
“Welcome to Patterson,” a splintered sign read. The driver maneuvered along a narrow, two lane road. Patterson Bus Depot was a few miles into town, but that didn’t stop us from stuffing our belongings back inside bags. Zippers zipped. Chip bags crumpled as they were folded. Excitement filled us as the bus stopped and the driver opened the door. Fresh air hit our faces; our bones creaked. I stood outside watching passengers find their rides. I pulled M’s address from my pocket and decided to walk the five miles rather than spend the little money I had on a cab.
“Hey…”a voice called.
I looked out across the parking lot. A wild-haired girl sat in the driver’s seat of a blue and white pick-up.
“You,” she said. “Come here.”
“Are you M?” I asked, my steps cautious.
“Yeah…who else would I be?” she laughed. “Come on…get in.”
I opened the passenger-side door. The seat was filled with holes; tools collected on the floor.
“Don’t mind that stuff. Just push it out the way.”
I got in and set my bag between us.
“Where are we going?” I asked, anxiety swimming in my gut.
“Why?” M reached down to scrape tiny rocks out of the creases of her right foot. “What’s it to you?”
“I was just wondering…”
“Well…sometimes wondering is dangerous.” She scraped the other foot. “You find out things you didn’t need to know.”
“Where’s Sebastian Margolis?”
“First things first…” she sped off.
I leaned into the door, thinking I could open it and jump out if I had to.
“You ain’t gon’ jump out are ya?”
I looked at her, my body shaking from the cold air pouring through the broken back window.
“Don’t be ‘fraid,” she laughed. “By the way…M is short for Meridian.”
And though I still didn’t know where we were going, I felt relieved. M was short for Meridian. This somehow made her real, relatable.