I, as well as most of you, suffer from the sickness of coveting the unavailable. In my last post, My Trip from Chicago to Atlanta Part I, I introduced my journey and mentioned a cast of characters. I left off with mention of Patrick the celibate novice Jesuit on a 30-day pilgrimage.
My first thought of Patrick was, “Oh great, another White guy with a backpack who’s off to see America.” As with Mitch, I purposefully ignored him. When a man walked past with about three dollars worth of quarters asking us for change Patrick’s response of, “You probably have more than I do” made my brain gag and triggered a Liz Lemon eye roll for the ages. He stood there with his Arc’teryx ($$$$) backpack up against the wall reading some book I decided was Thoreau’s Walden and I was all Judgey McJudgerson. I decided to ignore him because, after all, I was on a journey to make more Black friends.
I took my seat in the back and commiserated with the rest of the folk. That’s where I met Reginald the former truck driver turned landscape maintenance worker who was 57 and pretty flirty. There was a mother with her young child and one or two other people I don’t remember well. They cracked jokes while I laughed. It was nice. After the bus drove into the bridge (no shit, that totally happened) I found myself talking to Mitch for awhile, but then Patrick came over and joined the conversation.
Everything was uneventful until we found ourselves in the lobby of a Memphis Econo Lodge at 2:30 in the morning with no place to sleep and a bus that wasn’t coming until 7:00am. The shenanigans with the bus forced us to miss our connection. We were stuck in Memphis. If you’ve never traveled via Megabus then you don’t know that there is no terminal. You catch the bus on the side of the street like public transportation and then you try to make your way to the front of the crowd like semen swimming through the fallopian tubes. The city bus terminal in Memphis closes at 11:00pm and so we would’ve been chillin on the side of the road.
We were at the Econo Lodge because someone told someone that Megabus was going to put us up for the night to make up for everything that went wrong. Well, there was no reservation for us. We asked Terrence at the desk if we could wait in the lobby he, of course, said no. Our bus driver also had to go because he needed to drive back to Chicago in the morning. So we were going to be left at this Econo Lodge reservation or not. No one knew what to do so I stepped in. It wasn’t on purpose I just did. I took the number for the bus driver’s supervisor and negotiated the room assignments and transportation back to the bus stop the next morning. Everyone thanked me for stepping up, but I didn’t see it that way. I could just tell that everyone was exhausted and I work well under pressure. It just seemed natural. I was able to laugh and stay light-hearted. Patrick thanked me specifically for being a leader and taking care of the group. Pretty sure the brown cheeks turned a little red.
The next morning — well, it wasn’t the next morning it was 3 hours later. I checked with the front desk to make sure that everyone got their wake up call, and was up to grab breakfast. Patrick and Reginald were not. I dropped off my belongings on the bus and ran through the hotel to get them. It was comical. When we got to the bus I sat in the back and Patrick started to join me. Then he asked if I wanted to move to the front with him. Which, caught me off-guard. but I did. I was flattered. I ended up in a seat alone and he sat in front of me. Reginald sat across from me while Mitch was a few seats behind. We were like a little Megabus family. I loved it. Reginald and I talked about everything — race, being Black in America, Being Black in the outdoors, gardening, driving truck, lot lizards, the brakes cutting out on his rig– everything. He gave me his card and I’d love for him to the property manager on my farm someday. Patrick chimed in every once and awhile as did Mitch.
After our stop in Birmingham, Patrick stood up and asked me if I wanted to discuss economic independence and it’s convergence with rural cultures in the United States — or something to that effect. Those are my words, not his. I laughed a bit because no one asks me that then asked him if I could think about it because I didn’t know if I even had anything to contribute to the conversation. He said “Well, I need to know soon because if you say no, I’m going to get off the bus and start my journey from Birmingham instead of Atlanta.” I felt an enormous amount of pressure and then sputtered out a yes. He took his place next to me and our conversation began.
We talked about the Gullah people, the Jamaican Maroons, teaching economics in Sudan, our own lives. Our shoulders touched and thighs occasionally did the same. He spent most of the trip from Memphis sleeping while I couldn’t sleep at all. I grew tired and self-conscious. I snore like a grown ass grizzly and didn’t want that to happen right next to this person on whom I was crushing pretty hard. At times, we were quiet. I stared out of the window and relaxed into the left side of him. Comfortable. I was comfortable just being with him. Normalcy embraced me. I slept sporadically. Occasionally I awoke with my head leaning on his seat and froze. He was a stranger and I damn near fell asleep on him. I don’t think he minded. Oh the butterflies.
I asked about his pilgrimage and he touched briefly on some pieces and longer on others. He mentioned that this was so he could determine whether or not he was going to pursue this way of life permanently. If so, he wouldn’t be able to have a family or many worldly belongings. Because if tragedy occurs, he had to be able to drop everything and go. Attachments prevent that. Of course, I grew more attracted. Butterflies, again. He talked about how the Jesuits have a code and he admired that. I admired him for seeking out standards by which to live. He offhandedly mentioned a relationship he’d been in for 3 years and he thought was serious. I wanted to ask if that prompted his pursuit of this life, but didn’t. Too soon. I relaxed further into him and was astonished at my comfort.
I haven’t been attracted to someone in a very long while and welcomed the reminder that I existed. That all parts of me still functioned and that I could do this thing — fall for someone again. It was nice.
When we arrived in Atlanta we retrieved our belongings from the bus and walked together for a bit. I didn’t want to say goodbye, but we did. With our hippie backpacker backpacks nestled comfortably over our spines we hugged and went our separate ways. I my walk to my destination and couldn’t stop thinking of him.
It’s been almost a month and I’ve thought of him plenty since we parted. On the bus he asked for my card so he has my contact information. He said he’d email after the pilgrimage. He couldn’t before that because he wouldn’t have access to a phone or computer. I wonder if he will. I hope he will. There are approximately three days until his 30-days is up … it’s not long, but it feels the opposite. Regardless, I’m enjoying the feeling of flight and life inside myself. It’s long overdue, and more than welcome.