Time Stop Girl by Super Daddy
I stopped to take in Sunnyside, Queens one last time before I descended the raucous, putrid stairwell to the subway platform. I know that I’m not painting the most enticing description of Queens, but I loved it there. I truly did.
I boarded the N train bound for Manhattan. The train was mostly empty save for the blue-collar workers that were just going into work for their 10 pm shift. I stood next to the door, a suitcase sitting at my feet, the strap of a duffle bag draped over my shoulder heavy with New York City memories, and a backpack weighing on my back full of books, notebooks, CDs, a walkman (no, iPods were not available yet), deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, and I think I had pens and pencils in there too.
I got off at 42nd Street and made my way up the crowded stairwell to the busy sidewalks of Manhattan. The sights and sounds from outside of this subway terminal were quit different from the one I had just left in Queens. In Queens, everything was a little quieter and darker. Here just blocks from Times Square there were bright lights, and everything was louder with a sense of urgency. Tourists taking pictures and blocking New Yorker’s paths from point A to point B. You do not want to block a New Yorker’s path around Times Square; they don’t like to spend any more time there than they need to. Move over or get ran over. Here I am carrying enough luggage for three people and everyone around me is having either to put their brakes on for me or kick my rolling suitcase out of their way. It was hard for me to leave this time around. I was going to miss this.
I made it to Port Authority without pissing too many people off and without being cursed at more than necessary. At least cursed at less than the last time I actually drove through Times Square. That is something I will never do again. I think I would rather bungee jump than drive through Times Square again and I am terrified of heights.
From here, I am taking a twenty-hour Greyhound bus ride to Lexington, Kentucky.
I found the line for my bus; it was already 20-30 people deep. The line kept growing behind me. Eventually, the end of the line disappeared from view, but not before. . . She.
She walked right in front of me, stopped and looked me in the eyes. Everyone behind her slowed down and went blurry. She was the only thing in focus. She was the only person moving in real time. She asked where the line for bus # blah, blah was. She spoke with a Russian accent. She was pretty. Down-to-earth pretty. She didn’t wear a lot of make-up, maybe she wasn’t wearing any.
I told her she was looking for the line I was in, but the line went all the way down the hall. She thanked me and walked off. Everyone resumed real time speed and the moment was over.
The bus line next to me was boarding. They let 30 people on and cut the line off. They told the remaining passengers the bus was already full. They had sold too many tickets and that they would have to take a different bus. I looked back at the line I was in. I was certain I would make the bus. However, I knew the time stop girl from Russia would not make it on this bus if they had to cut our line. I resigned myself to that one moment, my romantic comedy moment. I wondered to myself, “What would John Cusack do in this situation?” He’d get on the bus and somewhere during the trip meet up with her and have one more moment before they went their separate ways. That’s what he’d do.
I boarded the bus, made my way to the back; I put my backpack in the overhead. I took my seat and strained in the dim lights of the bus to see if time stop girl was boarding. I saw her. She sat near the front of the bus. Do I grab my bag and go sit next to her? Or do nothing? I sat there debating this over and over for what seemed to be two or three days, but was only seconds, when an old man sat down next to her. I stood up, took my bag from the overhead compartment, and unzipped the bag, dug around until I found my walkman and the Suzanne Vega CD I bought in Chinatown the day before. I sat down, put in my ear buds and fell asleep to Suzanne‘s melodic voice singing “Luka”.
At 3 am, I awoke to the barley audible voice of the bus driver. He said something about Pittsburgh and changing drivers. I reluctantly exited the bus. I knew that we would be stopping again in three hours, but I was thirsty and really needed a cigarette. Then there was this girl I had to find.
I bought an overpriced soda and went to find the smoking area of the terminal. I entered the air-conditioned smoking room and there she sat. A couple other passengers from the bus were sitting in between us talking. She joined their conversation and then I made a remark, which then sparked a conversation of our own. We moved closer to each other and talked for two minutes before we were called back to the Greyhound.
She took her seat up front and I took mine in the back.
There were several more stops where we continued our conversations and eventually asked each other our names; Amelia was her name. Within a couple stops we were sitting next to each other on the bus. We shared my ear buds, she tried to teach me Russian, and she rested her head on my shoulder. I was having my one more moment.
We were headed to our next stop, Cleveland, Ohio. This stop would be the end of our journey together. She would board another bus headed for Dallas, Texas and I would continue on the same bus to Lexington after a two-hour delay. As we neared Cleveland, our conversation tapered off. We sat in uncomfortable silence for the first time. My backpack was sitting at my feet. I lifted it up to my lap. I unzipped the front pocket where I kept the pens and pencils. Oh, shit! They weren’t there! I searched the bag over. No pens or pencils. I closed my bag and placed it back on the floor. I took several deep breathes. Amelia and I looked at each other and smiled. I said, “Do you have a pen?” she smiled, laughed and said, “I was going to ask you too”. I laughed and then began to panic. I started asking all the passengers around us for a pen. A woman beside us handed a pen across the aisle and said, “About time you two”.
We arrived at Cleveland. Amelia and I sat and talked, laughed and she quizzed me on the Russian she taught me. I failed. We were trying to make the best of those two hours. She used my cell phone to call her Aunt in Dallas. We walked around the terminal, our hands brushing into each other. We held hands and laughed a little bit more.
Amelia walked to the bus with me. We turned to one another, and I was holding her hands in both of mine. We leaned in and hugged. Neither one of us letting go, we held each other until the driver asked if I was coming. We tightened our embrace for a moment, we both took a step backwards, our hands met again, we paused for a moment. I let go of her hands, leaned in, kissed her on the cheek and told her I’d call. She smiled with a tear in her eye and said okay.
I took my seat on the bus. Exhaled. Found my walkman, when the driver yelled at me, “Hey, you. She wants you again”.
I stood up and ran to the door of the bus. I climbed down the steps; she was at the bottom to meet me. I looked at her, “Yeah?” I said breathlessly. She wanted to tell me that her Aunt might call my cell phone and to tell her that she’ll call her from the next stop. I said no problem. We reached for each other’s hand; I took the last step off the bus and wondered, “What would John Cusack do?”