On The Road: 1.1: Cold, near Death.


           It was much colder in this northland than home.  It felt cold enough to snow.  Fortunately, he was able to find the bus quickly, get his bags aboard and find a seat by the heater and by a window.  The window was dirty, streaked with rain and dust that made muddy rivulets across his vision.  But he was not looking out.  He was looking in, and this time he stared long and hard at his reflection.

            The bus started to move at the same time as his thoughts.  Glen wondered what his roommate might be like.  He was not a person with tons of friends.  In fact, through High School he could count his real friends on a single hand.  Then again, he could count his real enemies on the other hand so things tended to even out.  He was known, but often forgotten, living in the middle of the mass of High School faces. 

            Glen wondered if his roommate might be a friend.  He imagined his roommate would be an acquaintance, on a different class schedule so they rarely interacted but for bedtime.  He prayed that his roommate would not be an enemy.  He heard about such things.  Some kids did everything in their power to drive their roommates away, like turning off the alarm so they missed their early morning class, hiding research notes under the bed where “they must have blown by accident,” making lots of noise late when you have an early class and they don’t, and the like.  All this was presumably done with the hope of driving you out so they could have a single room in the second semester.  Glen was not sure anyone actually did those sorts of things, but all the same he felt it was prudent to pray that his roommate not be an asshole.

            The bus made several stops in the city, and each time several people got off and the bus driver came back in rubbing his hands harder and harder like the world was getting colder and colder.  It began to snow, lightly at first, but Glen saw them get on the highway and that meant they were half-way there.

            Glen fell back into his introspection about what college might be like.  He was really only guessing.  His older brother went to a different school, one of his choosing, and was not the type to share personal experiences so Glen was going in blind.  Still, he thought he and half the student body or better would be in the same boat.  In the end he knew he would just have to wait and see.

            The bus skidded to a stop in Arborville.  That left only Jack’s Town before The College of the Lion.  Glen looked out the window once more.  The snow was beginning to come down hard, and the streets in town were getting a nice coat of ice over all.  On his own, Glen might have become concerned, but as he looked around at the half-dozen passengers still on the bus, he saw that they were not worried in the least.  Then he saw a truck out spreading a good sand and salt mix liberally on the road so he supposed there was nothing to worry about.

            Once again Glen’s mind took him into himself.  Glen did not have the maturity to be off on his own in school the way he was, but he felt he might be alright as long as he stayed focused on the school part.  He did not have the least idea what he wanted to do with his life or how he might reasonably balance his artistic soul with a job, but as far as it went, he did not have to pick a major until his junior year so there was no point in getting upset about it as a freshman.  Glen also knew he had no say in who the school assigned him as a roommate.  The person might well be a jerk, but then it was really up to him to make the best of it, regardless.  It was also up to him to let the housing people know if it got really bad, though he supposed he might not do that.  He was not the kind of person to snitch or complain, and he believed people should be able to reasonably work out their differences.  He did not expect great things from his classes or professors.  He believed that the material for freshman was going to be college prep classes that everyone should have already taken.  That is how more than one person back home painted freshman year to him. 

            Glen sighed as the bus slid into the Jack’s Town station.  The bus parked outside since the station had no indoor terminal.  All it had was a ticket office and a small waiting room with a couple of vending machines.  Glen had to go to the bathroom, but he could wait until he got to the college.  He thought that was an appropriate first act at the school.  He did not belong there.  He honestly felt he should not be there, that college at this point was not what he was supposed to be doing with his life.  That was a real spiritual conviction, yet he did not know what he was supposed to be doing so it left him in the middle of nowhere.  “God,” he often asked, “If I am not supposed to be here doing this, then what do you want me to do?”  All he ever heard in return was deafening silence.

            Glen was not worried about the school work he might face.  If anything he was worried about being bored to death and figured it was designed with the terminally stupid in mind.  And he was not afraid to be alone and on his own.  He spent his whole life alone and on his own even when he was in the midst of his family. 

            “Hey kid.”  Glen shook himself out of his introspection and looked around.  Everyone was off the bus.  “Hey kid.  End of the line.”  It was the bus driver.  He was standing up front on the exit steps with only his head sticking up above the seats.  “You have to get off the bus.”

            “But this isn’t the college.  I got a ticket to the college.”

            “I’m not driving any further in this.”  Glen looked out the window and saw it was really coming down hard.  The snow was already a couple of inches deep.

            “But how am I going to get to the college?”

            “You’ll have to take that up with the ticket office.  Get off the bus.”  He disappeared.

            Glen stood slowly and realized the bus was turned off.  He got to the front and started down the steps where his baggage was on the sidewalk being covered in white flakes.  He saw the bus driver go in the station door, and he planned to follow as soon as he gathered up his things.  It was cold, intensely cold.  In just the few moments it took to try and pick up all his bags, his ears and cheeks turned pink and his toes went numb in the snow.  His fingers began to sting by the time he got to the door.  He was about to set some bags down to open that door when the bus driver came barreling out.  Glen smiled, but the bus driver did not hold the door for him so he had to set down the bag in his right hand and under his right arm after all.  As he pulled the glass door open and propped it with his foot, he looked back.  The bus driver closed the bus doors, stepped into a car parked alongside the terminal and drove out into the snow, to vanish in the white.

            Glen started the struggle of getting his bags into the station when a man came out of the back and locked that door.  He noticed Glen and shook his head.

            “You can’t come in here.  Station’s closed.”

            “But I have a ticket to the College,” Glen protested, half in and half out of the doorway.  “How am I going to get to the college?”

            The man stepped up to the door.  “Come back in the morning, or take a taxi if you can find one running.”

            “But I don’t have money for a taxi.”

            “The station is closed,” the man repeated.

            “But where am I going to go?” Glen asked.

            “You can’t stay in the station.”

            “But –“

            “Not my problem, whitey.”  The man pushed Glen back out into the storm, closed and locked the door and went out the door on the far side which he also locked. 

            All Glen could do was stand there and freeze.  He looked up at the sky where his free, white puffy clouds had knitted themselves together into a gray, foreboding mass.  He felt the snow reach for his eyes.  Already he could no longer feel his toes.  And he asked, “Why?”  It seemed a reasonable question even if he got no answer.  And then he asked why the airline could not have had the decency to lose his luggage.  



Next Time:  1.2: Mercy



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