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He stood alongside the oil-stained Greyhound stall as my bus lurched to a stop in lane six. Blaring horns bounced off grimy station walls, screeching at those pretending sleep was possible. Like me, he was young. His posture was relaxed, but I wasn’t as I stared at him through the smudged glass. The shaggy hair, honey-brown face under artificial lights, thin bow-legged stance – every detail was Jose. Though it couldn’t possibly be Jose, my heart fluttered.
Buses pulled in and out of the cavernous station, but somehow I knew mine was the one he would board. With a grasp of the handrail and a light step up, he paused beside the driver. As he faced the scattering of empty seats, something leapt inside me. To test this magnetic force between us, I turned away before he caught my eye and I gazed out the window, facing the rumbling engines and choking exhaust and garish light. He flipped his worn pack onto the overhead luggage rack, and dropped into the seat next to me.
Late at night in the gritty Los Angeles Greyhound Station seems an unlikely time and place for two strangers to recognize each other, but that’s what happened on the red-eye express to Oakland.
I scrutinized the right half of his face under the overhead reading light, and saw the miracle. Not that he quite had Jose’s face, but something of Jose – something that I once thought I loved – it was in this stranger on the bus. Only he seemed at peace, in a way that Jose never could have been.
Pressed together in that moment and on that padded seat, we passed the miles. Night was a warm blanket in our two-person world, and we angled our heads toward each other, neither of us voicing the familiarity between us. Roadway streaked past as we whispered our stories in the dark. The bathroom door banged open and shut, open and shut, the floral-scented deodorizer wafting up from the back of the bus. Time was forever as we told of our lives, mostly in Spanish, with a sprinkling of English. Finally our voices trailed off, and I leaned my head on his shoulder though we had just met, and the night around us was endless. Vibrations hummed and lulled us to sleep. Together, we rested.
When soft blackness surrendered to light, I opened my eyes, feeling glad…except for the wistfulness, already flickering inside. We swung off the freeway in Oakland, right, left, left, right, lumbering into the station and stopping with a gasp of air brakes.
Thirty years later, I think of that night, though I don’t know if the magic was more him, or the memory of Jose, or the mystery of what draws strangers together. Rolling away in a cloud of exhaust, the Greyhound carried the young Guatemalan who finally had the seat to himself. And it occurred to me even then that I would always remember him, but never really understand why.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.