Midnight Bus Ride Home


11:56pm the bus arrives right on time. Joinville to Curitiba, a two-hour ride, just two more hours, I can do this. My nostrils sore from tissue scrubs and moppings. My constipated face forces all breath over my tongue. My bones pull from their joints and protest my movements, begging for sleep.

A brief greeting to a caffeinated driver and I peer into the dark bus for my seat. A dozen people wadded up in their chairs, quiet, absent of enthusiasm.

It finds my lungs. The air like fermented syrup sours my throat. My illness finds courage in its filth as hopes of comfort flee. I find my number, take my seat, wish the trip were already over.

Fog furries the windows, as condensation plinkos down.  I try not to think of the lungs the moisture comes from. I check my options. No A/C, no fans, no open windows, no escape from this sweat-filled submarine.

“No, please no, my cardio can’t take it.” My thoughts have no power over the second-hand smoke leaking from the mobile bathroom. The woman next to me begins to cough. Coughs full of cracks and claps and phlegm. Maybe she has it worse than I do. I pray her ribs hold fast as my patience runs thin. 

The smoke mixes with the moisture. The fumes find my brain and pinch it painful. Behind me the man drives his knees into my seat as he plays dead under his sweater. I give up on sleep. I want to be home.

Thoughts slosh around from bed sheets to fresh air, to daydreams of sleep and back to home. Trapped in this fogged up tube I feel I am nowhere, nowhere close to home. And then I realize I’m not even headed home.

I’m merely headed to one more place I’ve come to live in. But not home. Home is different.

Home is the roads I know exactly. When they curve, when they dip, when they break. Home is the roads traced well with bike tires, cartographed by running feet. Home is the shortcuts over fences and through locked gates. Home is the pavement wrinkled like grandma. Home is the frozen puddles smashed on my way to winter school. Home is apricots warmed by the sun, then my belly. Home is raspberries, apples, peaches, plums, grapes, honeysuckles, and checking the cherries for worms. Home is rooftops only I know. Home is the plane in the garage, the gun behind the green house, the comics in the root cellar, and the trenches where warless boys pretend they are their grandfathers.

Home is the mountains that are now hills. The trees now taller than me, the hedges now shorter. Home is houses where there used to be forts. Where orchards now have addresses. Where remodels aren’t as fun.

Home is red, orange, blue, brown, white, green, and wallpaper. Home is where the walls are soaked with laughter and the floors eroded by tears. Home is a million gallons drunk from a favorite cup, grace given before countless warm meals.

Home is love. Love that can’t be faked, love that can only be felt after years of going up and down the stairs and getting in and out of cars, love that can’t be understood in a moment or even a year, love that makes you always, always feel safe, no matter how late and how much blood is on your hands, love that made me open my eyes to see the world and people around me, love that taught me I needed to dream bigger and care deeper, love that can be felt 6,071 miles away, making me feel like maybe home isn’t so distant from this midnight bus ride after all.

The horseless caravan pulls in to the bus station in Curitiba. Prolonged blinks, eye massages, and realignings fill my time as I wait my turn to debus. An older man, his skin pulled tight by the sun and cerveja, stops me and asks, “where are we?” I think a bit before I answer.

This is a major revision of piece I wrote awhile back. It kept coming to mind and I decided it was time to revisit it. Reviewing these ideas and this experience proved to be an interesting experiment and brought back many of the same powerful emotions I felt on that midnight bus ride.

What makes a place feel like home to you? Would love to hear about it in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

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