I awoke suddenly to a crack of a motorcycle engine. I rolled over and squinted at my friend. He looked as reluctant as I did to meet the day.
“Good morning sunshine,”he said softly. He had taken off his shirt to use as a pillow. It lay crumpled underneath his shaved head. His pale chest moved up and down slowly, sweat glistened a thin field of hair. I gave him a wry smile and sat up, stretching out my arms. I craned my neck and heard a pop.
“That was loud.” He repeated the gesture by bringing his hands up to his face, turning his head in a circular motion.
“My neck is all messed up. These seats are awful.” I said as I stood up. I felt a rush of dizziness. My feet were hot in my old black boots. I had been so tired the night before that I hadn’t bothered to take them off.
“We should try and find the Greyhound station. I heard one of the cops talking about how we might be able to get bus vouchers.” Nick said as he rolled up his shirt and stuck it in the back pocket of his shorts.
“Wouldn’t we need to go to a shelter to something like that?” I asked inquisitively.
“The people working at the bus station might be able to help us. I am sure they can tell us where to get them.” He looked at me and added, “I’ve heard of bus stations giving people free tickets. I met a guy in Marietta who was stuck and needed to leave town. The agent at the counter in Atlanta felt sorry for him and got him on the next bus home.”
“Where was home?” I asked
“I’m not sure. I think he was from out west somewhere.”
We left our temporary shelter behind and sought out a nearby conveience store for directions. The clerk behind the counter eyed us suspicouusly. His camo hat sat a top of a large mop of unruly gray hair. We shared an appreciation for toothpicks.
“Do you know where the Greyhound station is at?” I asked, glancing over at the doughnut case. My stomach rumbled. The man stood with his arms crossed, resting on a large paunch. I looked directly into his beady brown eyes and waited for an answer.
“The bus station is up off of Main Street but ya’ll need to go thata way.” He pointed towards the gas pumps, evading my stare.
“East? We need to go east on Main St?” asked Nick. He managed to scrounge some change out of one of his deep pockets.
“Don’t walk down too far or else you will miss the turn. You need to hang a right on Commerce Street.” The man replied as he set his hands on the counter top, staring at my companion.
“Is there ANYTHING else I can do you for?” he sounded more brisk this time. (His tone was gruff). Nick shaked his head and turned to me.
“You must be thirsty.” he counted the change carefully and reached for my hand.
“This is all we have. Two dollars and forty seven cents. Get something to drink and whatever else you want. There’s a payphone out front. I am going to call my mother collect and let her know where we are.” I took the coins and made my way to the back of the store where the coolers were. I studied the colorful array of beverages before me and decided I needed water and caffeine but that wouldn’t leave us much left over for food. I chose a Mountain Dew and a handful of Little Debbie Snacks. As I made my way around the store I knew I was being watched. Several men had come in to get coffee and were making their way to the counter when they spied me.
“Hey Jim, did a circus roll into town?” A slender man in faded dungarees asked the man behind the counter. That drew a chuckle from the second man who stood holding his Styrofoam cup, eyes fixated on my skirt.
I brushed past him and wrinkled my nose. Tobacco and sweat.I paid for the items that I had dumped on the counter and pushed my way through the streaked glass doors.