I could fart the length of an Olympic swimming pool. A day in transit has left a hot bored wind in my colon.
An obese beyond obese woman occupies two seats at the Greyhound Depo.
It’s Saturday night. 12.35 A.M. Toronto, Canada.
Her plastic bottle swishes coke like a turbulent tar ocean of fat Black Death. Her breath is so shallow no toddler could drown in it.
A woman wails into her cell phone in the disabled toilet stall. “My dead son made it home before me… I will not sit here and let another bus leave…it’s only 26 goddamn dollars…”
In the neighbouring cubicle, I stare at my feet; at my huge backpack full of things. I think about the $26 I could give her, but never do. I wait for her to leave because I don’t know if I can look that kind of distress in the eye.
Back in the terminal, a mid-twenties girl hangs her head on the closed information desk. She uses a fluorescent yellow band of material for a belt. Her midriff is bare. Her luggage is black and white tiger stripe. She cries to a security guard that she’ll have to sleep on the street tonight. There’s panic in her voice, her eyes and even her hands.
Then some stranger appears out the urine haze of the midnight city like a seedy holy man. He wears a tight grey turtle neck, a leather jacket and has a huge white dog called Ben. He tells midriff-mid-twenties-girl to breathe. And she does. He tells her to pray. And she closes her eyes.
“Say it to Jesus! Say it to the Lord!” He says, so loudly and violently it feels like a repressed memory.
The bus is America bound. I sit next to a boy, maybe late twenties.
“Where are you headed?” I ask.
In the dim cabin lights, I can make out blonde hair and a broad, milk-strong Canadian physique.
“Just the next town over, s’bout an ‘our way. Y’self?”
“Hoo, that’s a long way. How many buses you takin’?”
“I think it’s about six.” I laugh.
“That an accent? English?”
“Oh, sorry. Is that offensive?”
“It’s a pretty common mistake.”
“Did you know that all you Aussies are descended from criminals?” He laughs.
His name is Brad, a title as jockish as his college hoodie. He is a chef and is taking the bus to his parents’ house to get the spare key for his restaurant. The 2IC lost it. He asks me to stop playing with the hair elastic on my wrist in a roundabout, even flirty, kinda way. He whispers so close to my face that I can smell the sourness of his overnight bus breath.
He says, “When I sleep on buses I tend to lean on the person next to me.”
In the dark, I roll my eyes. He gives me his email address in case I’m ever back in Toronto and as promised, falls asleep on my shoulder.
The bus passes the border into the U.S. from Ontario to Michigan at 5 A.M. I omit to the officers that I have an avocado, a carrot, an apple and a tin of pate in my bag. They tell me not to worry, carry it through. Meanwhile, the brown man to my right is being asked if he has ever had evil thoughts about committing violence against Americans.
“Your visa is due to expire in a week,” my officer says to me. He is bald, young and firefighter-fit, tucked snugly into a royal blue uniform.
I know this is not correct. I know he needs to stamp me back in for another 3 months according to my ESTE tourist visa but I don’t argue. I am tired and ready to accept my fate. Send me home, I rage inside, because you can’t send me back to Canada, my visa there expired today, they don’t want me either.
“Whatcha gonna do here?” He asks.
“I’ve got a wedding this weekend then I’m off to Mexico. I only need 10 days in the States, really,” I tactfully plead.
“Mexico? What are you doing in Mexico?”
He looks at my passport for a while.
“Ya know what? I’m gonna give you three more months. It’ll costya 27 US dollars but I don’t give these things out lightly. You’re just lucky that Aussie accents are my favourite kinda accent.”
I laugh, “Well, I guess I’ll say anything you want.”
“Say g’day mate,” he commands.
I say it. I am a clown. He and his colleague chuckle in their blue suits.
I wait behind three Amish people declaring parcels full of medicine.
I guess I’m in.