I’m trying to get comfortable. The seat must be made of that cheap, fake vinyl material. My legs keep sticking to the seat. Today is hotter than any of the other days this summer. It seems like it is just going to get worse. One must come to terms with these facts early in the summer.
I boarded the bus in Santa Rosa. My aunt dropped me off. I came out to California from Phoenix to help them move. I’m on my way back to Arizona now. I’ve grown up wishing I lived with my family out on the coast. It seems to be a much cooler existence. Who doesn’t want to live at the beach?
I boarded at the last minute & the only seat available was next to a cute girl. I looked around; too long to see if there was a different seat I could choose. I’m probably shier than your normal guy. I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable the whole ride. The fact I was on a bus was already uncomfortable for me. I was used to driving in a family car or flying on the trips out to visit family. I flew out to the San Jose International Airport on my way back, but I didn’t have a way to get back to my grandfather.
So here I am. She is pressed against the window & hasn’t looked my way. I’m grateful for this, because now I didn’t have to introduce myself or somehow keep a conversation going. I can just keep to myself. I pull out a notebook. I know I have to put the finishing touches on a story I had written about my time in Camp Meeker.
Camp Meeker is an unincorporated community off the Bohemian Highway between Occidental & Monte Rio. Well, at least, that’s what Google says about it.
I look for a place to put my coffee. “Shit.” I mutter to myself. I guess between my legs will have to do. It’s no longer hot. It’ll be okay.
“Sorry I’ve been silent this whole time.”
“It’s okay.” I look up with wide eyes. “I don’t talk much, myself.”
“Why are you looking at me like that?” She has a bit of a giggle in her voice.
“I…I kinda just keep to myself. I think most of my friends are people I’ve known my whole life or I met through them.” I say, warily.
“I’m Samantha, but no one calls me that. It’s always Sam.”
“What do you want to be called?”
“I don’t really care. I’ve never thought about it….you know, no one has ever asked me that.”
“Well, we’re going to be sitting here together for a while. What would you like me to refer to you by?”
“It does seem silly, but why do we even have to use names?”
“It does seem silly.” I stare at her. I have never met anyone who was this bizarre in their logic. I see myself wanting to distance myself from this impending craziness, but I can’t take my eyes off her. She is pretty, but not in an over bearing way. There is something different about this one.
“I think you stopped breathing.”
“No, I’m still breathing.”
“Well, you’re definitely staring.”
“Oh. Sorry.” I look down. She giggles quietly to herself. I look at her again. Our eyes meet & then lingers.
“It’s okay. It’s nice to be noticed.”
Samantha keeps saying these strange things. How could anyone not notice her? She could never blend in if she tried. There was just no way. Where was she from? Who would make her believe that she wasn’t being paid attention to? I mean, I just met this chick, but it seems crazy to me. It seems cruel & harsh. I know some guys feel better when they mistreat women, but I couldn’t fathom this.
I keep my smile, but it is tinged with sadness at this point. We keep our small talk going through the small towns of Northern California; Petaluma, Novato & San Rafel. We grow silent as the bus comes to the Richmond/San Rafel Bridge. The noise of the tires & traffic echoes off the steel structure makes it almost impossible to hear each other.
The bus weaves its way through Richmond & into Oakland, where I have to depart. Sam is going to be continuing on. I wish we had met at a coffee shop or bar or anyplace else. This feels like a tragedy to me. I can see the Bay Bridge looming off to the west. Oakland never was an uplifting place. The grime & criminal element will forever supersede the stories of generations past growing up on these hillside streets. I can’t envision them being real after seeing the city for myself. Time had not been kind to this place.
“I wish I didn’t have to go.”
“Me neither. It was really nice meeting you.” Her eyes have grown sad as well.
“This is crazy. We’ve only known each other for a few short hours.”
“Life is cruel sometimes.”
“I think there’s some saying about heights & lengths of happiness.” I wish I hadn’t tried to be witty in this instant. It just makes me feel bad about myself.
Samantha shakes her head at me & smirks. I guess inappropriate dorkiness isn’t always a bad thing.
The bus pulls into the station & the brakes release their pressure with that tremendous sigh of air. It is the relief after a grueling trip. I sit there looking at her. She sits there looking at me. I know I have to get going. I don’t want my grandfather roaming these streets in the dark looking for me. My soul is stirring. This is one of those moments that define a lifetime. Perhaps not everyone encounters this sort of thing. I’m scared. I feel the butterflies in my stomach. But then I have enlightenment; a moment of clarity. I know what I must do. I reach over & touch her face with both hands. Her eyes close. I move in & place my lips upon hers with a confidence & grace that I have never done anything. It is a magical experience. Samantha kisses me back instantly. She is in the moment. When we finally separate, I feel like the king of the world.
Silently, I stand to rise. She looks up with a mixture of sadness & infatuation. I look down upon her with a smile that will last me for a very long time. Samantha reaches up her hand & grabs mine with all her might. I pause.
“Please wait.” I stand puzzled. She bites her lip, as if unsure of the next move.
“What is it?”
“I want to give you something.” She said, in a quiet voice. I watch her write out her address & rip out the page. She hands me the quarter sheet of purple paper.
“I’ll write you tonight.” Sam only looks down & smiles as I say this. “No,” I gently pulled her eyes to meet mine. “Really, I promise.”
“Okay.” She replies in the softest voice possible.
I smiled at her. I wait only a second before grabbing my bag again & heading towards the front of the bus. I paused one last time at the steps. I took Samantha into my memory, hoping this would not be the last time I saw her.
The air was a little cooler in Oakland. The smell of exhaust & grime penetrated the outside area of the bus station. Night was descending on the city. The Sunset neighborhood across the bay was most likely living up to its name. I moved quickly to get inside. My grandpa was probably hitting on some young lady. I began to realize I needed to get inside & save her.
The night was young. There was so much trouble for us to get into…